Rolling protests set to cycle into three Yorkshire cities

Hundreds of riders are set to stage two-wheeled demonstrations lobbying for better cycling provision in three Yorkshire cities on Saturday.

A Space for Cycling campaign bike near Leeds Inner Ring Road

The Space for Cycling support rides will see cyclists mass in Leeds, Sheffield and York to urge council leaders and policy makers to give more consideration to cyclists when planning roads.

Space for Cycling was sparked in London after 20-year-old student Philippine de Gerin-Ricard was killed on a cycleway at Aldgate on July 5 2013 – exactly one year before the start of the Tour de France Grand Depart from Yorkshire.

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Yorkshire residents will join riders in cities across the UK including London, Newcastle and Manchester this weekend in support of the campaign. Riders in Leeds will meet in Millennium Square at 12noon, before either cycling a 2km city centre route or a 6km journey to Kirkstall Abbey.

Martin Stanley, a Leeds Cycling Campaign committee member, moved to Leeds three years ago having cycled in European states such as Belgium and joined the campaign group after finding UK roads cater far less to two wheels.

He said: “Ultimately we just want to make Leeds a nicer and safer place to cycle. The biggest legacy of the Tour de France will be whether we can get better infrastructure in place.

“It’s not just Leeds, we have got a low number of people commuting by bike. We are at one or two per cent, which when compared to our Northern European neighbours, is pretty appalling.”

He said despite big initiatives such as the £29m CityConnect cycleway between Leeds and Bradford, there is still “substandard” provision being built.

Cycle Sheffield is coordinating the South Yorkshire call for action, and participants are being encouraged to wear red – the campaign colour – make banners and decorate their bikes.

Matt Turner, a member of the group, said: “We need the council to recognise the wider benefits that come from making space for walking and cycling. By addressing this we can make Sheffield a more pleasant place to live, with a healthier population, better air quality and less congestion.”

Campaigners have been inspired by the success of Space for Cycling nationally in raising awareness of the need for action.

The rides demand action on issues including safe walking and cycling routes for school children and students, safe routes around city and suburban centres and protected space on main streets and major junctions for bikes.

Cyclists are also being urged to mass at York’s Millennium Bridge at 10am, as riders in cities including London, Newcastle and Manchester demand action.

Space for Cycling drew national media attention following the death of Philippine de Gerin-Ricard. She was the first person killed on a hired “Boris bike” in London following a collision with a lorry on one of London’s flagship commuter cycle routes near Aldgate Tube Station. Around 1,500 people attended the first peaceful Space for Cycling protest ride a week after her death.

The protest rides come a week after Otley-born Olympian Lizzie Armitstead wrote to Leeds City Council to urge leaders to implement British cycling’s ChooseCycling manifesto. It recommends local and central Government accommodate cycling in road designs through providing “meaningful and consistent” funding.

Coun Roger Harington, Leeds City Council’s cycling champion, said the authority is “firmly committed to making Leeds as cycle-friendly as possible”.

Sheffield City Council aims to increase the number of bike trips in the city by 10 per cent by 2025. It claims “innovative schemes” are planned to improve facilities.

Simon Green, of Sheffield City Council, added: “There has been a major increase in the number of people wanting to cycle in our city and it is in everyone’s interest for us to help make it easier and safer for them to do so.”