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Farewell to scheme that made city fitter and more pleasant

By This is Devon  |  Posted: March 28, 2011

WAVE: Stunt rider Andrei Burton and headteacher Sandra Leggett join pupils at Whipton Barton Junior School's bike sheds, provided by Cycle Exeter

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AT the end of this month Cycle Exeter will cease to exist in its present form, as funding for this project has come to an end.

As a city we have hugely benefited from the energy and enthusiasm shown by the team by promoting cycling in schools, businesses and for leisure.

The legacy of this drive to boost cycling in our city can be seen from the dramatic increase in cycle routes, cycle training, bike parking, promotional events and a whole host of other cycle-friendly schemes developed over the years.

Exeter became a cycling demonstration town in 2005 and since then has been working on many infrastructure improvements, such as creating safer routes for cycling to schools and making large stretches of traffic-free cycle paths within the city.

While these are perhaps the more visible signs of the work done, there has also been a huge commitment to delivering the message in many other ways. The drive to promote Bikeability training to our future cyclists not only encourages the younger generation to get out on their bikes but gives them the confidence and skills to cycle on the road. It has been a huge success.

Many businesses have received help with cycle parking, route planning and general advice towards forming bike user groups within organisations to actively encourage employees to ditch the car and commute to work by bike.

This has reduced parking congestion and has, in many cases, resulted in a fitter workforce.

The Exe Estuary Trail has been a long time coming but it is now nearing completion and has already made a big difference to making cycling a serious choice for many journeys in and around the estuary areas.

For many people, it seems to have taken an age to come to fruition, but a project of this scale requires a level of planning and tireless negotiating that simply cannot be achieved as swiftly, perhaps, as everyone would like.

And then there has been the Tour Series, closed-road professional cycling right here on our streets which draws crowds of thousands and inspires a generation of new cyclists with Olympic and world champions right in the city centre.

Although this isn't happening again in 2011, there are rumours of the Tour of Britain again visiting the area in September, allowing us all to experience top-flight road racing once again this summer.

It is extremely sad that Cycling England has not survived the present Government's sustained demolition of our public services. No doubt, as a consequence, we will not see the levels of cycling promotion that we have recently enjoyed.

It is not all bad news, however, as the work that Cycle Exeter has been doing will continue but will sit within the Department of Transport's delivery of the Local Sustainable Transport Fund.

The bid for this new funding is being put together and will be submitted next month with funding announced by the end of June.

There is also confirmed funding for 6,000 places on Level 2 Bikeability training within Devon schools and some additional funding for further courses in adult cycle training.

The work by Cycle Exeter has been recognised by Cycling England as a national exemplar and I am sure all the cyclists of Exeter would like to thank those involved for their dedication to the cause.

We can at least be thankful a few people remain here in Exeter to continue developing our goal to become a vision of the future in making the city a place in which cycling is considered a viable and serious option for travel by the majority of our citizens.

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