On your bike! Dorset sees a 55% increase in cycling

On your bike!  Dorset sees a 55% increase in cycling

Published by Maria Greenwood at 9:01am 23rd July 2020.

Lockdown has led to a big increase in local cycling – but Dorset Council says it has no firm plans at the moment to increase local routes for bike riders.

Figures from Dorset Council, on routes where it counts users, show a 55% increase from the end of March to the beginning of July, topping 2,000 riders in one week for the first time.

“Cycling is very weather dependent but there was a significant increase in cycling during the lockdown period compared with the same period last year,” said a council spokesman.

Dorset Council say that it has no definitive plans at the moment to increase local routes for cyclists.

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Some cycle routes, such as the one between Dorchester, Broadmayne and West Knighton, have been discussed, but not progressed, over thirty years, while established routes, including part of the national cycle route from Dorchester to Martinstown, have fallen into disrepair, and are only passable in places by mountain bike.

Owermoigne councillor Nick Ireland, who frequently cycles, has welcomed the increase in pedal power and says that Dorset Council should now seek to build on it:  

“The benefits to health, well-being and also in addressing the climate emergency should not be underestimated.

“However, we need to both sustain and build on this by implementing real measures that ensure people see non-motorised transport as valid and attractive options and I’m concerned that Dorset Council have no clear vision or plan to take this forward.

“Other authorities such as North Tyneside have shown what can be achieved in a very short timescale and have implemented solutions that could be used for example in Weymouth on Westham Road and other suitable routes to make cycling much safer and attractive. They are not prohibitively difficult nor expensive.

“We need to be taking such innovative approaches from our peers and other sources such as Sustrans and moving them forward at pace; now is not the time for excuses but for expediency.”

Bike Ride Cycling

Local ‘right to ride’ representative for Cycling UK, Roland Tarr, also backs further local investment in cycle routes.

He says the routes are an attraction for European visitors and could help boost village pubs, shops and accommodation, as well as offer sustainable transport and healthy exercise.

“Germany hasn’t suffered anywhere as badly with coronavirus as we have but is putting roughly ten times the amount of investment into cycling to help their economy,” he said.

Dorset Council has won £577,000 from the Government for sustainable travel and is asking local people to contribute to a consultation by the end of July.

It suggests that ideas might include widening footpaths to improve social distancing; restricting traffic from some streets, or installing temporary cycle lanes.

Residents are being asked to make their suggestions via an interactive online map.

The council’s cycle data comes from monitoring strips at Radipole Park Drive, Weymouth; The Wiers, Dorchester;  the Bakers Arms roundabout near Poole; Rowlands Lane, Stourpaine; Weymouth Way North and the Sandford Road at Wareham.

By Trevor Bevins, Local Democracy Reporter