Building cycle confidence

Cllr Williams attending a community cycle centre event

Blog by Councillor Adele Williams, Portfolio holder for Local Transport and Adult Care.

There are two main reasons that people don’t think cycling is for them. Either they don’t feel safe cycling in close proximity to cars, or they lack the confidence to consider this a transport option. We are working to improve both, by building better cycle infrastructure and working with communities to support people to get on a bike.

Large scale building projects like the cycle lanes along Castle Boulevard or Daleside Road are vital for creating a safe space for cyclists so anyone, whatever age or ability can pedal in a separate car-free space. Feeling safe and being separate from traffic is so important, and can open up cycling as a transport option to people who wouldn’t previously have considered it. Over 1000 trips a day are now made along the cycle lane on Castle Boulevard and this is growing all the time – showing that if you build it, they will come!

Giving people the space to cycle safely is key to increasing the number of people cycling. We know this to be true in Nottingham, as cycling is up 43% in the city since 2010 when our major improvements began. We are currently applying for funding from the Department for Transport to continue to grow our cycle network, so there will be more off-road cycle lanes around the city soon.

I recently got back into cycling after a few years out of the saddle, and understand that it can be daunting – even if you’re an experienced cyclist. That’s why it’s so great that groups like Ridewise are working with communities to help people build the skills and confidence to make cycling a viable transport option. We want people to view cycling not as a recreational activity or something reserved for people in head-to-toe Lycra, but as a way to do the school run, get to work or visit friends.

In the last year Ridewise have helped 2,250 people gain new skills and confidence at their community cycle centres. Held on Saturdays, they offer a range of sessions for beginners, families and improvers to support more people cycling. The sessions are free for Nottingham residents, and often offer Dr Bike sessions too – which offer free bike servicing to keep your wheels in top condition.

I went down on a drizzly Saturday morning to take part in their ‘improvers on road’ session. Braving the weather, the team led us on a short cycle ride, pointing out hazards and giving advice for road position, dealing with tricky junctions and how to react in traffic. It was great to be able to ask questions of the team, and learn useful advice about how give yourself the space you need to stay safe.

Through fostering a culture of cycling and building good, off-road cycle routes we can make a real difference to how people travel around the city. In countries that have high levels of bike usage like Denmark and the Netherlands, cycling really is for everyone –  9/10 people in Denmark own a bike, and Danes cycle on average 1.6km a day. That is what we should be working towards – helping people to access a cheap, sustainable and green transport option, with the added benefits of improving public health without contributing to traffic or air pollution.

Want to get involved?

Ridewise community cycle centres are held March – October at various locations across the city. The sessions are free for city residents (there is a small charge for non-residents) and funded via the Access Fund programme.

The Access Fund programme supports a range of projects, which offer sustainable travel solutions for businesses, jobseekers and communities to encourage behaviour change, with a focus on active travel.