Rise of the Cyclists

You may have seen them- the cyclists. Either zipping down Nottingham roads, powering up the University Park hills or passing by walking students on the QMC cycle path, they seem to be a solid feature of Nottingham student life.

According to an Impact survey, 15% of Nottingham students cycle to their lectures. This may seem like a small proportion compared to the 85% that walk, take the bus or drive, but student cyclists are increasing and the University are making rapid changes to accommodate this growing number.

“We’ve definitely noticed an increase in the number of cyclists,” says Joanna Ward, the Project Manager of the East Midlands branch of the leading UK cycling charity, Sustrans. They are responsible for Ucycle Nottingham, an initiative that has enabled Nottingham students to have access to 320 long-term hire bicycles. “We’ve had to bring in 100 extra bikes to meet demand- you only have to look around campus to see how popular cycling is.”

“We’ve had to bring in 100 extra bikes to meet demand.”

Since September 2009, Sustrans has been working to enable people to use their bikes for everyday journeys in partnership with many Nottingham-based organisations. These include both the University of Nottingham and Nottingham Trent University, as well as further education colleges, the Nottingham University Hospitals NHS Trust and the Nottingham City Council. Sustrans travel surveys reveal encouraging results; within two years of starting up, they report that cycling levels increased on average by 40% amongst students and 38% amongst University staff.

Move forward to 2013, cycling is now a frequent feature on the national agenda. The recent Get Britain Cycling parliamentary debate in September saw 5, 000 cyclists flock to London streets to support measures to boost cycling levels throughout the country. This summer also saw a large-scale protest in London after the death of three cyclists in three weeks in the capital, and the hospitalisation of 16 year old Ryan Smith after an accident where he wasn’t wearing his helmet.

It’s not just about introducing students to cycling, but also improving conditions for those who are already familiar with the mode of transport.

Cycling safety is certainly- and has been since the charity’s inception- a large part of what Sustrans does in Nottingham. For them, it’s not just about introducing students to cycling, but also improving conditions for those who are already familiar with the mode of transport and encouraging them to take responsibility for their own well-being while cycling.

Their current Bright Up Campaign illustrates this aim. With the clocks going back last weekend, Joanna told Impact about their timely initiative: “It’s getting almost to the point when students will be cycling from lectures in the dark, so encouraging them to use lights is particularly important.” The focus is not limited to just bike lights though – posters promoting the campaign highlight the importance of wearing brightly coloured clothing and attaching a bell to your bike handle bars to alert pedestrians. They also encourage motorists to be extra aware of cyclists, urging them to leave at least 3ft of space during the winter period- as Joanna says: “All of us have got to be responsible for each other’s safety.”

“All of us have got to be responsible for each other’s safety.”

The University and Students’ Union are also making significant efforts to encourage safety and promote cycling. The UoN Security Department continually approach cyclists not using lights after dark, preventing dangerous situations for the cyclists themselves, and also to the traffic and pedestrians around them.

Cycling is on the SU’s agenda this year, with Community Officer Dave Cordell telling Impact of his meetings with Sustrans and the Police over the summer concerning improvements. Presently, he is waiting to hear whether a planning request to establish more lock up points in Lenton will be passed by the Council.

“We went around Lenton and noted all the areas that didn’t have any clear places to lock up bikes, such as those around the Lenton Sainsbury’s and the Savoy Cinema amongst others. It would be great for cyclists if there were more. Improving cycling in student areas is going to be one of my focuses this year.”

“Improving cycling in student areas is going to be one of my focuses this year.”

He also told Impact about his desire to strengthen existing cycle paths and urge more cyclists to try them. It is hoped that students may use these instead of more dangerous routes to University where they may often encounter traffic, such as currently road-works laden Dunkirk. According to Police records, Dunkirk has the highest frequency of cycling accidents out of all student areas.

It seems that this year will see cycling gain a larger focus throughout the University, as it has on a national stage. With 40% of you telling Impact that you think that the buses to campus are unreliable, now might be the right opportunity to get your bike out of the cellar and dust it off to join the cycling movement.

Emily Shackleton

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One Comment
  • Adam
    5 November 2013 at 13:06
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    Hooray for increasing numbers of cyclists. It’s a cheap and healthy way to travel.

    I think the best way to improve safety is to encourage cyclists to take proficiency tests. I think a lot of cyclists don’t realise the Highway Code applies to them, and don’t bother taking the proper precautions to avoid accidents.

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