Organisers hailed the second Cycle Winchester mass ride “a triumph over the elements” as one hundred cyclists braved cold, lashing rain to call for improvements in Winchester’s cycling infrastructure.
With a yellow warning of wind and heavy rain, the team contemplated cancelling the event, but in the end felt that some ardent cyclists would still turn out, despite the conditions. We were gratified to discover high turnout on all three feeder rides, from Harestock, Kings Worthy and Badger Farm. After completing their ride into the city centre, cyclists rode two laps of the city centre and then gathered in Abbey Gardens for a well-earned non-alcoholic hot fruit punch and mince pie, and free bike safety checks provided by Bespoke Biking.
The ride comes at a crucial time for cycling in Winchester. Hampshire County Council has recently published a draft of its Movement Strategy for consultation. Sue Coles, member of the Cycle Winchester steering group said of the strategy: “There are some really encouraging signs: two priorities are to Reduce City Centre Traffic and to Support Healthier Lifestyle Choices. We do, however, have concerns, particularly about the timetable for the implementation of cycle-specific schemes.” Cycle Winchester is urging all cyclists to respond to the consultation, and has published a quick guide on its website to help them to do so.
Rob Jordan, organiser of Saturday’s mass ride said: “Cycle Winchester celebrates the joy of cycling: a convenient, healthy and inexpensive way to get around Winchester, which reduces congestion, pollution and makes Winchester a better place to live, work and visit. The ride helps to create a vision of a better Winchester, where a critical mass of cyclists makes cycling safer and more enjoyable.”
Emma Street, ride volunteer and academic at the University of Reading comments, “I got involved with Cycle Winchester because I have seen in my research how cities like Munich and Seville have created environments that encourage cycling among all ages and abilities. With Winchester’s under-15 and over-65 populations predicted to grow most rapidly, there is an opportunity to work together to make cycling more accessible and enjoyable for all”.
Cycle Winchester works to tackle the issues that deter people from cycling, such as: lack of protected cycling routes, lack of bike parking, road layouts that don’t cater well for cyclists, shortage of training schemes to give people the skills and confidence to cycle safely. Our vision for the Mass Rides is to create a critical mass of cyclists on the road. This helps to make cycling safer by creating an environment where the city streets are genuinely shared spaces. Car drivers start to modify their driving habits as cyclists become a significant presence on the roads, not a series of frustrating minor obstructions.
We hope that the ‘Bike Trains’ and cycling routes into the city that feature in our mass rides will eventually become established routes that operate regularly into Winchester city centre so that cyclists can join others for companionship, safety and fun! Research shows that seeing other cyclists ‘like them’ on the roads is important, especially for those who currently wouldn’t make such a journey because it is an unattractive and/or scary proposition.