South West London sees European partners come together to make cities cycle friendly

Merton Council in South West London is part of a new partnership of European city councils called CycleCities. For the first time, the council brought together representatives from a number of countries for a special forum at its Civic Centre last week.

Notes to editors

*The INTERREG IVC programme provides funding for European partnerships to identify and share good practice and innovations for a sustainable environment.

The partnership has been set up to look at how to increase the number of people who cycle in Europe.

Following a successful bid to the European Union’s INTERREG IVC programme*, Merton Council organised the forum and a day of workshops for the delegates.

The event saw council officers, politicians and academics from Greece, Germany, Italy, Portugal, Poland and Slovenia share their transport and planning policies with each other in order to develop an action plan to improve the road environment and encourage cycling to be the number one transport choice in cities.

Delegates heard how Merton Council is working to encourage people to create an environment where people would choose to walk and cycle. They heard from Transport for London (TfL) about how the Mayor of London is transforming London into a cycle-friendly city through its Cycle Revolution campaign. TfL also spoke about raising the profile of cycling through policy and the development of practical projects to accommodate cyclists around towns and cities.

The workshops included a cycle ride along the Wandle Trail in South West London with local cycle campaigners and the Sustainable Transport charity SUSTRANS. They demonstrated ideas for improvements for the Wandle Trail which follows the River Wandle through the London boroughs of Wandsworth, Merton, Sutton and Croydon.

Representatives from the different European countries came from the ancient cities of Piraeus, Leipzig, Genoa, Lisbon, Gdansk Gorenjska and the University of Athens. Facing similar challenges to many parts of London such as incorporating cycle ways into often old, narrow, bustling streets, this was an opportunity to hear about cycling experiences in different cities and share ways in which each country is trying to make cycling a safe and reliable transport option.

Merton Council cabinet member for environmental sustainability and regeneration Councillor Andrew Judge said: “It was good that Merton was able to host this international cycling conference to learn from others and communicate our own experience and aspirations. As Cabinet Member with responsibility for Environmental Sustainability and Regeneration including Street Management, I am committed to the ‘Go Dutch’ principles that the Mayor of London and many Boroughs have signed up to.

‘Currently we are seeing a cycling revolution in London and Merton intends to take a lead in ensuring that cycling is safe and convenient for men, women and children in all parts of the Borough. Our aim over the next few years is to quadruple the proportion of all journeys taken by bicycle. We have Biking Borough status and aspire to be an exemplar in London. This means investing in physically separate cycle paths as part of a local network that enables cyclists to make safe journeys in their own neighbourhood including trips to school and to the shops. It means redesigning junctions to improve cyclist safety, introducing shorter and quicker routes by bicycle as well as extending the Cycle Super Highway from Colliers Wood initially to South Wimbledon. It means investing in secure and convenient cycle parking facilities in all parts of the Borough. Cycling is good for personal health, good for the environment, good for local shopping – research shows that cyclists spend more locally – and good for pleasure.

Merton is working closely with the Wandle Valley Park Trust to improve leisure cycling along the length of the river as well as other green routes. We are supporting cycle training and cycling events. We were exhilarated by the achievements of top British cyclists in the Tour de France and the Olympics and will do what we can to ensure much wider participation in cycling at every level in Merton in future.”

Pavlos Doikos from CycleCities Lead partner Piraeus near Athens, said: “We are proud to be working with Merton on the CycleCities project. We are all facing financially challenging times, and cycling is a relatively inexpensive way to travel. It’s also good for the environment and excellent for personal fitness. It is the job of all of us involved in town planning and local authority policy making to create a cycle-friendly environment so people, in the end, automatically choose cycling as their default mode of transport.”

More information on CycleCities will be available at from January 2013