Cycling numbers rise as Tour effect gets into gear

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News: Sheffield Telegraph online 24-hours a day.

NUMBERS of cyclists on Sheffield roads are continuing to climb - with another surge predicted surrounding the arrival next year of the Tour de France.

Already a Tour effect is being seen, say local cycling groups.

“We’re seeing lots of young professionals buying very slick racing bikes,” said Nick Brelsford, of co-operative training group Pedal Ready. “In Sheffield rush hour, a flash bike makes a lot more sense than a flashy car stuck in a queue of traffic.”

According to the cycling community’s latest figures, the city cycle count for 2012 is 75% higher than ten years ago. They believe the figure would be even higher if the latest count had not been done on very wet days last autumn.

Evidence suggests that increasing numbers of families are being motivated by the prospect of improving health and saving money as well as the publicity surrounding the Tour de France, which arrives in Sheffield on July 6 next year.

“We’re getting lots of mothers and grandparents coming to our beginners’ sessions now, because they want to cycle with their family,” said Nick. “Parents are also saying they want to cycle more often to be a good example for their kids. There are lots of mothers learning to ride for the first time, too, because they never had the chance to learn when they were girls.”

All city 10 and 11-year-olds are eligible for free ‘Bikeability lessons’ if their primary schools take up Government-sponsored training, which replaced cycling proficiency. ‘Parents Bikeability’ wsessions are being held at participating schools.

Support has come from Sheffield Central MP Paul Blomfield, a lifelong cyclist, who said local people should not be worried about cycling in city traffic, but encouraged all cyclists – new and experienced - to take up a free urban cycling skills session.

After a session with Pedal Ready, he said he now recognised the risks he had been taking such as wrong positioning on the road. “As a car driver you’re not able to drive on the roads without training, but training for cyclists hasn’t always been available. I’d say to people thinking about cycling to work, school or university that it’s worth learning about cycling skills, and not assuming you know how to negotiate urban traffic.”

Numbers of cyclists in Sheffield are going up, despite the city’s hills and potential hazards. Brook Hill roundabout, near the University of Sheffield, was named by The Times as one of the most dangerous junctions in the country for cyclists.

Local companies and community groups are being loaned bikes and offered free courses on commuter safety and maintenance. Participants have included PlusNet, Sheffield Teaching Hospitals, Longley College, SOAR Community Regeneration and the English Institute of Sport. Sheffield University has 9% of staff cycling to work, and the hospitals, 4% to 5%.

Meanwhile, the Government is financing, through the council, a series of off-road schemes in the Sheffield area to encourage cycling. A £1.2m project includes resurfacing the canal towpath between Rotherham town centre and Tinsley. Another £200,000 has been allocated to resurface and extend a route between Meadowhall and Chapeltown and £270,000 for a route between Hillsborough and Oughtibridge.

Council cabinet member Leigh Bramall said: “We are keen to improve cycle access across the city and to provide people with a safe and efficient way of getting around. There are many environmental and health benefits associated with developing these routes and I am sure they will become popular with all ages.”, tel 2412775.