Saturday, 27 December 2014

Pleased that we are making progress on cycling in Northumberland

I am a keen cyclist and know only too well that Northumberland is a great tourist destination for cyclists. Hadrian's Cycleway and the Reivers Cycle Route are great long distance cycling routes, but cycle networks for residents in our towns and villages are poor to non existent. I have previously  spoken about this in the House of Commons and urged the Northumberland County Council to do more – as Newcastle has successfully applied for millions of pounds of central government cycling funding.

Currently just 2% of all journeys in Northumberland are by bike and it is easy to see why. Northumberland needs to get ambitious when it comes to cycling. Newcastle’s cycling vision sets out a plan to achieve 12% of all journeys under 5 miles by bike in the next 10 years. I want Northumberland County Council to set a specific target for short commuting journeys in the County taken by bike, and to draw up a plan for investment in cycling infrastructure within Northumberland's towns.

We particularly need cycle lanes in towns such a Hexham and Ponteland, which allow amateur cyclists to make short journeys within our towns. We need to encourage more commuting by bike which will help reduce traffic and improve health for local people. Places like Ponteland strike me as ideally suited to a network of cycle lanes towards the town centre.

The Council's recently published draft Cycling Plan says: "Linking rural villages to market towns on traffic free routes while desirable is not always economically viable. Some remote and inaccessible communities can only be accessed by car. Resources need to be focused where greatest benefit can be derived. Resources will be targeted on the large towns, market towns, the Tyne valley corridor and links to the Tyneside conurbation."

I welcome the creation of the Northumberland Cycling Board by Northumberland County Council - it is a good step forward. Hopefully it will allow ideas and resources to be shared so that new projects and bids for funding can be put together.