Friday, 26 October 2012

Coventry's twinning links with Arnhem

I have always felt it important that Coventry doesn't just try to become another city where a few people ride bikes. We need to do something much more ambitious than that, and we need to do so because of our strong historic links with cycling.

My proposal to build a hub and spoke (+rim) network based around the 12 points of a clockface plays very much on Coventry's strong history of making watches and clocks, together with our claim to be the birthplace of the modern bike.

The ManiFietso theme has always been about raising our game to Dutch standards. There are already a number of moves in the right direction here, including the £6m of funding which has been allocated from local and central funding towards cycling, and also the new path linking Warwick University to Kenilworth.

Last week, London Cycling Campaign held its "Love London, Go Dutch" conference, in which a number of ideas were presented from the Netherlands. One of these was the new RijnWaalpad, which is effectively a high speed cycling motorway (not just an over-inflated Boris superhighway), running between Nijmegen and Arnhem.

This brings us full circle with our historic links, as Arnhem is one of the many cities with which Coventry is linked. Arnhem is famous for "Operation Market Garden", and the crossing over the Rhine, now known as the John Frost Bridge. 

In its own way, cycling can build bridges between communities which no other mode of transport can, as properly engineered and safe cycling routes are genuinely available to almost everyone, at no cost to the user. In fact, building more cycling links actually brings benefits to the end user in terms of health improvements - again, something no other mode of transport can do (apart from walking or running).

As we look for an Olympic cycling legacy, The Rijnwaalpad truly is the gold standard, and even adopting just some aspects of this route would be a great start. Most of the effort to promote cycling in Coventry should go to encouraging more cycling within the city, but we shouldn't forget our near neighbours, especially Bedworth and Nuneaton to the north. This is where the highest intercity traffic is likely to be.

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