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Bristol named first cycling city

19 June 08 08:39 GMT

Bristol has become England's first "cycling city" in a £100m government scheme aimed at encouraging cycling.

The city intends to double the number of cyclists over the next three years with a series of innovations.

Sharing the funding will be York, Stoke, Blackpool, Cambridge, Chester, Colchester, Leighton Buzzard, Southend, Shrewsbury, Southport and Woking.

Among the features in Bristol will be the UK's first major bicycle rental network, modelled on a scheme in Paris.

The government is giving Bristol £11.4m to transform cycling by creating dedicated cycle lanes, better facilities and more training for children.

The local area will match this funding to bring the total investment package to about £23m.

Transport Secretary Ruth Kelly said: "I am delighted to appoint Bristol as the UK's first ever cycling city. I am sure that Bristol's bold and ambitious plans will support cyclists and encourage more people to get on their bikes, get fit and beat the traffic.

"Bristol is leading the way. I hope that many more will follow its excellent example."

As well as Bristol, 11 other towns and cities in England have been designated "cycling demonstration" areas, and will get funding to improve infrastructure, bike parking and cycle training.

Six other English towns and cities have held demonstration area status since 2005; the Department for Transport says they have seen a significant increase in cycling.

The Public Health Minister and Bristol South MP Dawn Primarolo said the scheme would help tackle growing levels of obesity in the UK.

"For most people, a great way to keep healthy is by building physical activity into everyday life, such as cycling to work or school," she said.

"The first step in persuading people to leave their cars at home is to offer them a real choice."

Phillip Darnton, chair of Cycling England, agreed, but said it was important that proper training was given.

"Nobody is suggesting you dump somebody, particularly a young person, on a bike," he said.

"We don't drop them in the deep end of swimming pools, you've got to learn properly, there's a national standard called bike ability and that's what we're urging people to do and we have some funding to help."

Councillor Helen Holland, leader of Bristol City Council, said: "Our aim is to make the bicycle a real alternative for many more people travelling to and around Bristol.

"This award, and the funding that it brings, will enable us to progress with a raft of off and on-road improvements which will encourage more people to chose pedal power to make a real difference to their own and our city's health and environment."

Among the city's innovative proposals are the creation of the UK's first on-street bike rental network and setting up a scheme to repair bikes and provide them free of charge to people in deprived communities.

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