25 March 2010

Britain's best cycling cities revealed! ...oh

My May issue of Cycling Plus arrived through the letterbox yesterday, amid the usual blizzard of flyers for takeaways and witch doctors. (I'm not joking about the witch doctors. This is south London, you know.)

Like any hack, the first thing I look at is my own stuff, to see if the subs have 'corrected' the jokes they didn't understand. (They hadn't. My copy's perfect, of course.) I'm banging on about April Fools in my column this month, and I plug Freewheeler's blog. My column's on page 36, if you're in a WH Smith some time today.

Anyway, one feature that caught my eye was C+'s ranking of the Best Cycling Cities 2010. (I posted about a list of world top bike-friendly cities a few days ago.) They say they've taken into account all sorts of stuff, not just 'facilities'. How likely your bike is get stolen, for instance (London good, surprisingly, Hull bad). Or the rain (Nottingham dry, Cardiff soaking).

But their final Top 20, according to an unspecified formula combining all these factors, certainly raises an eyebrow. Cambridge (my favourite British bike city, pictured) doesn't even make the list. Nor does York, one of the few other cities I'd happily live in as a Real Cyclist.

London only clocks in at 17th, three places below Hull (which is, to be fair, pretty good for cycling, if not for many other things, such as access to witch doctors, or having paid employment or GCSEs or two parents).

Their top five is...
1. Bristol
2. Nottingham
3. Leicester
4. Manchester
5. Edinburgh

Hmm. No doubt this will get the forums buzzing on Bike Radar, the website associated with the magazine. Wonder what Groningen or Assen or Munster might score on the C+ formula...?


  1. Maybe it's all relative. Bristol, Edinburgh and Manchester are all great once you are out the city, makes weekends good. Bristol's railway path is an excellent commute right up to the moment it abandons you near the city centre, or leaves you to cycle round the ring road to the military industrial complex round the north fringe. I would put Grenoble ahead of all of them though: flat, views of the alps, best weekend rides humanity can offer.

  2. Isn't a British "best cycling city" what grammarians call an oxymoron?

    It's like "good road for cycling on in London".

    Too bad Chris Hutt is no longer around to comment on the notion that Bristol is a cycling paradise.

    Anyway I shall today rush off and buy a copy...

  3. Spluttter, Harrumph, Gawk! Bristol, for goodness sake. It's a lovely place - I chose to move there a few years ago ... But number one cycling city it definitely is *NOT*

    Never, in London where I used to live, did I encounter the bland assumption of universal car ownership and use that I've come across here in Brizzle. Yes, it's got potential - but to even mention it in the same sentence as Cambridge (where I have also lived) is just ...

    [wanders off shaking head]

  4. I think the headling "Britain's Best Cycling Cities" is a bit misleading. The way I read it, they've taken the 20 largest cities by population, then ranked them according to their formula. Which is why York, and I assume Cambridge, are not on the list. Is is, therefore, erroneous to say that Bristol is the best cycling city, when many cities were not even considered.

  5. If one is a real cyclist then maybe anywhere is a good place to cycle by default.

    For me the biggest influence to whether a place is good to cycle or not is the attitude of all the other users of the road; not the weather or the steepness of the route, up to a point!

    Segregated cycling facilities can make for a pleasant experience if the cycle provision is decent. However, I'd much rather cycle on a busy city road with friendly people than use a crumbling cycle path with numerous obstacles.

  6. @Freewheeler... I suppose it is one of those oxymorons, like 'government organisation'.

    While planning the post (lying awake in bed at 4am this morning) I meant to include the jibe 'Deciding which English city is best for cycling is a bit like deciding which one of Jedward is the more talented', but forgot. Life is full of such unfulfilled bad intentions.

  7. The title should be "Britain's Least Crap Cities for Cycling".

  8. Excuse me: where is Cambridge on the list? Oh; it's position 0 -- awesome. :)

  9. Bristol! Nottingham! Their formula clearly assumes that cyclists only ever need to go downhill.

  10. add this to the recent cycle survey nonsense (especially the Oxbridge rating) - see the press release below that's just in. John K @ London Cyclist

    Liverpool is the most bike-friendly city in the England and Wales – with London emerging as the worst, according to new research released today by the leading flatshare website Easyroommate.co.uk.
    Easyroommate.co.uk has calculated how friendly the 55 largest cities in England and Wales are to cyclists, based on the percentage of inhabitants who work within cycling distance of their home, the number of bicycle accidents, and the percentage of landlords who offer bike storage.
    Liverpool was the most bike-friendly city, emerging as the safest city with the proportionally lowest number of injuries to cyclists. London was the worst city for cyclists. A third of people in London live beyond the distance commutable on a bike – the same figure for the UK as a whole, a figure which includes rural areas. Cambridge and Oxford were the most unsafe cities for cyclists, with more accidents per head of the population than anyone else – although this is likely to reflect the larger cycling populations. Leicester is the least practical place to keep a bike, with only 17% of landlords providing bicycle storage.
    Following a user survey, in which 53% of respondents wanted bicycle storage, Easyroommate.co.uk introduced an option on its website, allowing flat-seekers to choose properties with bike storage and landlords to advertise it. Just two months after the introduction of the option on the website, one in five of 12,500 Easyroommate landlords now promote their bike storage facilities to appeal to prospective tenants.

  11. Now then, now then...I feel I should step in and offer an explanation. The survey was of the top 20 cities by population. That's why good cycling cities such as Cambridge and York aren't included. We don't ignore them, though, we admit that miss a these examples on page 70. As for the criteria – the full list was (all per capita): levels of bike theft, British Cycling membership, CTC Membership, people taking advantage of the ride to work scheme, cycling commuters, cycling casulaties, traffic free greenways,PM10 pollution levels, road quality, independent bike shops, sportives within easy reach, litter and precipitation. Not perfect, these things never are, and it's these things as a whole that led to the results. We didn't expect people to agree - but maybe Britishs cities are, well, not that good for cycling...

  12. Yeah but you didn't include Cambridge Cycling Campaign membership didya - over a thousand!

  13. Confused as to why Cambridge hasn't made the list. Silly not to publish the list of factors considered!

  14. @Rob: Your remark about Jedward (6th comment above) made it into today's Guardian... (bottom of page 9)

  15. Agree re Leicester - one can cycle (in a considerate manner) in the pedestrianised areas, there are masses of bike stands and the Bike Park is wonderful for buying bike accessories, repairs and, if needed, a place to leave one's bike and shower and change. Could do with more advance stop areas though.