Thursday, November 02, 2006
Meeting the Minister
After that, it was a quick dash to the station to meet Tom Harris MP, Minister for Transport, off the train.
Tom came to review our progress as one of England's 7 Cycling Demonstration Towns. He was joined by Philip Darnton from Cycling England, the body which has overseen the initiative. For Darlington, that has meant £1.5 million over three years.
We visited the new College building on Haughton Road, and saw the model of the new cycle/pedestrian bridge over the railway which will be in place in early 2007, together with the continuation of the dedicated off-road cycle route down Haughton Road to Borough Road. A series of presentations followed, rounded off by a visit to Heathfield School, where the teachers, parents and pupils have achieved near-miraculous results in just a year. No-one cycled to school then - now 70 pupils use their bikes regularly. Tom unveiled a mosaic about cycling designed and made by the children.
Everyone seemed happy with what we had to say. We're on the verge of a step-change in Darlington in terms of cycling infrastructure as work begins over the next few months not only on Haughton Road, but also cycle links across the ring-road in two places at Russell Street and near Victoria Road. Safer routes to get cyclists along the town's busy radial routes are in the offing.
And there's evidence that the work is bearing fruit. Despite the cynicism from some quarters, cycling is taking off in many of Darlington's schools. Our automatic cycle counters around the town are showing big increases in the number of bikes coming into the town centre. When the infrastructure is in place, achieving a true cycling culture could well be on the cards.