Exeter's vision is to have 20% of all children cycling to school by 2009. Five brand new secondary schools are being built from scratch as part of a massive re-organisation of school facilities in Exeter providing an exciting, once in a lifetime opportunity to link the city's schools to new and existing cycling routes and paths. As a result, thousands of children will be able to cycle to their school.
One of the schools to benefit from Cycling England's funding is St Luke's, which has a new access bridge for cyclists and walkers. In addition to this, over 25,000 students and staff in Exeter will benefit from new, secure bike parking facilities and new cycling links are being built between university accommodation and lecture theatres.
'Cycle to your Heart's Content' will be the message from doctors to patients in Exeter, who would benefit from cycling as a means of exercise. This exercise referral scheme will be introduced throughout the city in partnership with the Primary Care Trust to encourage more people to take up cycling as an easy way to improve their health and well being.
Another project which, with the help of Cycling England funding, can now be quickly achieved, is the £6 million development of the Exe Estuary Cycle Route. The estuary will eventually have cycle paths down both sides as far as Exmouth on the East side and Dawlish on the West, and create a scenic new tourist attraction.
Exeter's parks provide safe places for children to learn to cycle and, although some cycle tracks already exist such as the new track at Hamlin Lane playing field, Exeter has identified many which need improving. There are now plans to put several new training surfaces in place, for example at Heavitree Pleasure Ground and Exhibition Fields, to encourage more families to take up cycling. Hamlin Lane playing field already has a newly resurfaced area specifically designed for parents to train their children.
It was a great end of year for us. Colin, our dedicated Cycle Trainer, has been kept busy running National Standard courses in a number of schools across Exeter and our first Bikeability awards were handed out last month. Colin’s youngest candidate was ten and his oldest was 62. Well done all!
Our BikeIT officer Emma has also been making great progress at ten schools in the city and has put 170 pupils through cycle skills sessions. A number of high schools have awarded individual students ‘Cycling Champion’ status. Their job is to encourage other pupils to cycle to and from school. Also we have introduced a scheme ‘Free wheel to a free meal’ which offers students who cycle to school regularly free school meals and discounts in local cycle shops.
Exeter’s walkers and cyclists celebrated together during Walk to School Week in October when 140 pupils rode their bikes to St. Leonard’s Primary School on their special Pedal & Pedestrian Day. Numerous schools have also been working hard to update their travel plans, marking their commitment to greener, healthier and safer travel!
In the same month, we launched our first annual Travel to Work Tally where we contacted every employer in Exeter and asked them to take part in a survey to gather a picture of how people currently travel. We had a fantastic response of 6,500 people.
We have identified six schools and six businesses for the first round of funding to improve their onsite cycle storage and we have installed and improved 16km of cycle routes across the city. It is making a difference, we have seen an 11 percent increase in the number of cyclists compared to this time last year.
The first section of the Exe Estuary Cycleway is now complete so families can benefit from the newly widened and resurfaced path leading from Exeter to Turf Locks. It’s a lovely route for a weekend spin. Other works around the city include the completion of a 2.3km stretch of off-road, shared use path along a major city route in addition to the complete signalisation of a major roundabout. This will benefit industrial areas as well as one of the secondary schools.
Other events worth mentioning include a successful cycling workshop at the National TravelWise Conference in Bristol and a cycling information and freebie giveaway at Exeter College and Exeter University freshers’ fairs.
We look forward to another great year in 2007.
Like all the Cycling Demonstration Towns, Bike Week was a major focus for us. Our Cycle Exeter road show spent the week visiting several of the major employers, offering them Dr. Bike clinics, route information and general advice on cycling, all helping to raise the profile of our status as a CDT. Staff cycling to County Hall benefited from a Bikers Breakfast, which was supported by our Chief Executive, who cycled an impressive 12 miles (and has pledged to do so at least a further 20 times this year.) We also held big events in the city centre and at the quayside, aiming to reach as many residents as possible. On Sunday of Bike Week, two sponsored rides were organised, alongside performances from a local bike trialling champion and a Cycling Circus!
Our work with employers is continuing a-pace. The Met Office and Environment Agency in Exeter provided tremendous support in Bike Week with the Environment Agency offering all their staff the day off to take part in a bike ride around the new city routes.
The best news from Exeter this month is however, that our work with schools is clearly beginning to pay off. At St Luke's Church of England Science and Sports College, further cycle storage facilities have been requested as cycle participation levels have already exceeded all expectations. Demand for cycle training has also been steadily increasing, which is good news for our recently employed Cycle Trainer.
Planned infrastructure for all the new schools is also well under way. The link to ISCA College through Ducks Marsh is now complete and we are expecting work on: Bad Homburg Way; Betty's Mead playing field; Matford Park Road; Topsham Road and Bridge Road to be complete by the end of the month. One of the improved links benefiting several schools in the city has just been upgraded and now not only offers a safe off road cycle route but also side road cycle priority.
In the last month, Exeter has been working up its proposal for the 'Cycle to your Heart's Content' project which is due to be launched at the end of March. In February, we selected ten pensioners to pilot the exercise referral scheme. The participants will receive Cycle Training to allow them to maximise the health benefits of the sport, as recommended by their doctors. Training of all levels will be offered to participants to cater for their varying abilities.
Marketing has also been a focus in the last month. In addition to launching Cycling Exeter Website (http://www.devon.gov.uk/cycleexeter) we began the Exeter slogan campaign. In asking residents to engage with the marketing of Exeter as a Cycling Demonstration Town, we are hoping to give them a sense of ownership of cycling in the city. Let's hope the responses produce some good results!
We are now conducting interviews for a school and work place travel coordinator, who will help teachers and employers develop travel plans and encourage cycle participation, but more of that next month!
And despite the cold weather and snow, work has also been progressing on a number of cycle schemes in the city and on the Exe estuary routes.
Please contact us at:
Devon County Council, Lucombe House, Topsham Road, Exeter, EX2 4QW