Portsmouth Cyclists turned out in numbers last night for Portsmouth Cycle Forum’s “Dutch Style, Bristol Fashion” meeting. The room, provided by the University student’s union, was packed with riders keen to hear how cycling is being encouraged across the country. Roger Geffen, campaigns and policy director of the national cycling charity CTC and Eric Booth, chair of Bristol Cycle Campaign travelled to Portsmouth to share their experience.
The evening began with Dr Janet Maxwell, Portsmouth’s new director of public health, explaining the key role cycling has to play in the improvement of public health. Dr Maxwell, whose previous role was in Bristol said she would make it her aim for cycling rates here in Portsmouth to overtake those in Bristol.
Roger Geffen then introduced the Space for Cycling campaign. This campaign pushes for protected space for cycling on main roads and reduced risk to cycling on minor roads. Roger explained that a key challenge is to fund cycling properly. The UK currently spends about £2 per head on cycling, whereas at least £10 per head annually is required to really improve cycling levels.
Eric Booth then presented Bristol’s Freedom to Ride manifesto. Bristol has already achieved cycling levels of about four times those in Portsmouth, and has demonstrated that every pound it has invested in cycling has delivered benefits worth ten pounds into the local economy. To build on this success Bristol cycle campaign has developed a manifesto based on a map of proposed cycle routes. This has been so successful that the local authority has started to adopt it – committing to spend £16 per head annually on cycling for the next three years.
The speakers were then joined by Portsmouth City Council Leader Gerald Vernon-Jackson for a question and answer session. Councillor Vernon-Jackson met with an enthusiastic response when he promised that if Portsmouth Cycle Forum delivers a vision for cycling along the lines of Bristol’s then he would support it. Cycling has a vital role to play in improving health, reducing road casualties and reducing congestion on our streets.
Lord Mayor Lynne Stagg was on hand to promote her charity bike ride, which takes place on 23rd March starting in Victoria Park. There will be two routes on offer, one of 8 miles and one of 16, and there are several bikes to be won as prizes. All monies raised will go to the Lord Mayor’s charities – full details are on the My Journey Portsmouth website.