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Graham Titchener interview - Yorkshire Tour legacy

28th August 2014

Graham Titchener, Cycle Yorkshire

Graham Titchener is the Regional Director at the City of York Council, in charge of the Tour de France legacy for Yorkshire and the Humber. The legacy organisation is called Cycle Yorkshire, and is chaired by Kersten England, CEO of York. This is what he had to say about the Yorkshire Tour de France legacy in an interview with Hedgehog Cycling.

Where did the idea of a legacy come from - was it a requirement of the agreement with ASO (the Tour de France organisers)?

No, it wasn't a requirement. It was Welcome to Yorkshire's idea, and they discussed it with ASO, so it was a mutual agreement - to make an even more attractive  package to win over ASO.

It was put forward to the local authorities. Different local authorities had different lead responsibilities for the Tour. Calderdale was the lead local authority for the 100 day Yorkshire Festival (together with the Earl of Harewood and Festival director Henrietta Duckworth). North Yorkshire took the lead on highways, Leeds City Council was the lead local authority for the event (barriers, stewarding, and more), and York took the lead on legacy.

Do you work full time on the Tour de France legacy?

Yes, together with one other member of staff. We're employed by the City of York, but work full-time on the Tour legacy in Yorkshire and the Humber, developing regional initiatives and liaising with national bodies. The aim is to get more people cycling more often.

Each of the 21 local authority members of Cycle Yorkshire has a lead legacy officer, and we work with them on whatever fits in with their strategies. The key is to get more people cycling for economic reasons - cycle tourism, the health benefits that come from preventing inactivity-related conditions, avoiding congestion, and community engagement.

We are also working to share best practice and resources with organisations including the Academic Health Science Networks, Sported (the 2012 Olympics charity), the Rotary Club, Family Fund (who help low-income families with disabilities), and Northern Rail. Other key partners are British Cycling, Sustrans, County Sports Partnerships, and Welcome to Yorkshire.

What are the most important aspects of the legacy?

We were keen to launch the legacy before the Grand Départ - the Grand Départ which was very successful, more successful than we could have hoped. Before the Tour, there was the Yorkshire Festival, which was a first in the Tour's history, and brought out a huge amount of artistic creativity. The Cycle Yorkshire website, developed and maintained by Welcome to Yorkshire, was launched, and it is intended to be a one-stop shop for all cyclists' needs. We produced education packs for schools, and they were downloaded thousands of times in the first few weeks. We also created the Ride the Route app, to help non-professional riders prepare to ride the routes safely. Finally, we created the all-important regional strategy.

We were keen to launch Cycle Yorkshire before the event while interest was high, then the key is to maintain momentum, so the legacy has longevity. Now after the Tour, Cycle Yorkshire can be used by local organisations and people to do whatever they want to do to help get more people cycling. One of many examples I love to mention is the work Sheffield are doing to look into installing bike pumps on street corners in areas where there's a lot of bike traffic. I think this makes a real statement and shows they are taking this seriously.

Private enterprises can invest in and sponsor initiatives. Together with Social Enterprise Yorkshire & Humber, we are looking for sponsors for existing and new bike recycling enterprises and bike libraries, like Street Bikes [a social enterprise which recycles bikes, provides bike maintenance courses, and organises cycling events] and Bike Rescue. The idea is to help everyone have greater access to bikes, and training and opportunities to use them.

Version 1 of Cycle Yorkshire's legacy strategy document talked about supporting every large employer and school in the region to have a fully implemented travel plan, but this disappeared by version 2. Is it still part of the legacy?

It is still an aim, yes. The travel plans will have to be done by the businesses or schools, but with help from local authorities, encouraged by us, and with pressure from employees or staff and students. Some local authorities already have a travel plan officer - West Yorkshire/Metro have one, as do York and Sheffield.

Would you agree that infrastructure is fundamental? That it's great to have, for example, bike hire at stations, but if (not enough) people feel that they have somewhere safe to ride the bikes, then the bike hire is only useful to the same percentage of people who were already prepared to brave the roads? So all the other aspects of the legacy are dependent on infrastructure? (In this context, there was a recent Comres poll for the BBC, in which 64% of respondents said roads in their local area were not well designed to be safe for cyclists).

Yes, it is fundamental, but it takes a long time to put in. I can cycle confidently almost anywhere, but most roads wouldn't be suitable for younger children or less confident cyclists. At all the local authorities I've been round, there are a lot of committed officers doing a lot of good work. One of the recommendations of a progress report I'm writing, to be submitted in October, is that all local authorities should have a political cycle champion role - an elected councillor who is the cycling champion, who can be a focus for cycling initiatives.

Something as simple as showers at work can be 'infrastructure', and they are easier to install than bike lanes. I know someone who cycles to work because there are showers and good cycle parking, and probably wouldn't otherwise.

Infrastructure is an important solution, but it is long-term and expensive. In the meantime we can address other issues, including better awareness amongst road users, events, and anything which helps people to cycle or cycle more often.

By concentrating on things other than infrastructure, are you making a virtue of necessity, because Cycle Yorkshire doesn't have any funds to build infrastructure?

We do have a small pot from the DfT. Otherwise, it's down to local authorities, and sponsors for projects which include infrastructure.

How many members does Cycle Yorkshire have?

There are 21 local authority members, and altogether, about seventy people and organisations on board. But in a way, everyone is part of Cycle Yorkshire - it's for everyone to use it to get more people cycling more often. Cycle Yorkshire is growing all the time.

Can you imagine there one day being safe, separate cycle routes alongside main roads, for example from Leeds to Harrogate, and Harrogate to York? Might there be a benefit in routes being visible from the road? If people could see out of the car window that the bike routes were good quality and safe, they might decide to use them?

We have to balance cost and benefit. There was a request for a route from Wiggington [north of York, just outside the ring road] to the city centre, but it would have cost £1m to £1.5m, and only about fifty people wanted it.

Don't you think that if you built a good quality cycle route, more than fifty people would end up using it?

'Build it and they will come' may be truer now than before, with the sporting successes we have had. 

Some councils think that the risk of building a route in the hope that people will use it is too great, when they need to show that they are spending taxpayers' money wisely. Projects have to be based on consultation, and research to show potential usage. Routes between main residential areas and town centres or schools are the most likely to be used.

Any cycle-specific infrastructure is likely to be a maximum of 5 miles, otherwise it costs too much money. This is also the maximum distance most people will cycle. An exception is a route like the Leeds-Bradford cycle superhighway, which is a 'hop on, hop off' route; another exception is leisure routes like the Nidderdale Greenway.

In the case of North Yorkshire, they only have a maintenance budget, so there won't be any new infrastructure for bikes unless there's external funding

There won't be cycle routes on country lanes, so we need to educate road users. We need more awareness and more empathy. Drivers should be more aware of the consequences of passing cyclists too fast and too close. They should slow right down, and allow plenty of space. Cyclists can ride as a peloton, but they should ride single file when necessary to leave room for vehicles to pass, and they shouldn't go through red lights. Sometimes riding further out in the road is safer, especially on narrow lanes. Behaviour breeds behaviour, but that takes time.

There have been a number of road safety campaigns designed to stop people thinking that it's one group against another, but make them think of individuals, not what they are riding or driving. An example was the 'someone's daughter, someone's son' campaign in Yorkshire and the Humber, and more recently the 'see cyclist, think horse' campaign by Cycling Scotland.

Sustrans are also doing good work. The National Cycle Network is a big plus, and Sustrans are planning the next phase of it, seeing where the gaps are. There's the new cycling hub at Sutton Bank National Park Centre, connecting a lot of leisure routes, which is one of many examples of what we are seeing across the region.

Do you have the impression that the Tour has increased the number of people cycling in Yorkshire?

In an initial survey just before the Tour, 27% of respondents said that they had been inspired to cycle more.

My personal impression is that there are more club and touring cyclists in the rural areas of North Yorkshire. For towns and cities, it's early days yet. Hundreds of people have volunteered their stories, for example for Bike Story [part of the Yorkshire Festival 2014], but data is scarce.

We've realised that we need to drive things locally, not wait for the DfT. We are committed to this legacy programme for 10 years or more, to help and encourage more people to cycle more often.

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