Velo-City, the annual international conference about everyday urban cycling, provides an excellent focus for cycling advocacy best practice from around the world. Last year's event in Copenhagen
was, not surprisingly, wowed by that city's track record in encouraging more people to cycle as part of their everyday lives. Though it must be repeated, much of the wowing can also be put down to PR. We ourselves have worked in Bremen, which has more than twice the amount of off-road cycle paths as Copenhagen - and that excludes green areas like parks and riverbanks. And of course it has been well documented elsewhere
that much of the Netherlands has far superior standards than Copenhagen.
The 2011 event opened yesterday in the Spanish city of Seville
. To coincide with this year's event, a new magazine called Cycling Mobility
is being launched there. Darlington is featured in the publication via an article about Beauty and the Bike
. But there is also a substantial piece about Seville itself, and how the city transformed itself in just a few years from a car-dominated and congested regional capital to a cycling-friendly place to live. In less than six years, Seville has increased cycling's share of journeys from 0.2% to 6.6%, with the number of people cycling daily from 2,500 to 70,000. This compares with Darlington's figures, regarded in the UK as a great success, of 1% to 3% over five years.
Spain is not noted for its cycling-oriented mobility culture. So how come Seville has been so successful? The article lists seven action points that were central to the plan:
- DO have a thoroughly researched master plan that develops cycling as an integral part of the transport system
- DO create a fully linked network of routes that offers the public a practical, pleasant and convenient means of transport
- DO ensure that cycle lanes are safe, and physically separated from cars where necessary
- DO make sure that cycle lanes follow main routes where there are shops, public transport points and people
- DON'T go for the easy option. Creating routes around the back streets is straightforward but not always best.
- DO expect stiff political opposition when trying to fund projects like these.
- DO remember that the alternative is to continue to spend billions on new roads which will simply add to the problem.
Seville offers an example of what can be done with strong political will. Most of these action points echo exactly what Darlington Cycling Campaign has been advocating for our own town. With local elections looming here in May, there is precious little sign that such political vision will be on offer for the voters of the borough.