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Two-wheeled Traveller

PUBLISHED: 14:11 30 December 2007 | UPDATED: 14:58 20 February 2013

Chief executive and founder of Sustrans John Grimshaw

Chief executive and founder of Sustrans John Grimshaw

It's called the school run but more often than not it's a bumper-to-bumper car journey to drop off youngsters who are carrying enough kit on their backs to challenge a sherpa. Fearing for their safety on busy roads, parents are reluctant to allow ...

Incentives introduced by the 'Bike It' project include riding in en masse in the morning before a hearty bikers' breakfast, two-wheeled treasure hunts and the chance for young riders to 'bling' their bikes.

"I know the huge issue of obesity in our children can be tackled by putting exercise into their everyday journey," John.

He campaigned for safe routes for his own children back in the 1970s and Sustrans was born out of his desire to change the situation where he lived.

"During the Arab oil crisis, Friends of the Earth thought we should have a transport group, so I suggested setting up a cycling group in Bristol," says John.

And so Sustrans began life as Cyclebag - a group of environmentalists who embarked on a programme of building cycle routes that has continued for 30 years.

The dismantled railway line between Bristol and Bath was the first railway path converted for use by cyclists and walkers. The 16-mile long path now carries around 2.4 million trips per year. Today, a huge network of routes covers the whole country, looked after by volunteer rangers. In September 2005 Sustrans celebrated their first 10,000 miles of cycle routes and 10 years of the National Cycle Network.

There are 97 routes and the Network passes within one mile of half the UK population. Locally the blue Route 3 signs direct cyclists from Bristol down through Wells, Glastonbury, Bridgwater and Taunton and on to Devon and Cornwall. Today, supporters are lobbying hard for an ambitious traffic-free route between Cheddar and Wells.

"I have always viewed Somerset as a place with the greatest potential for cycling," says John, who has happy memories of his early life here. "I went to school in Sparkford for six months while my parents were abroad.

John went on to study engineering at Cambridge University before joining contractors Taylor Woodrow. He spent some time with VSO in Uganda and then with consultants Mander, Raikes and Marshall before leaving to work at full-time designing, and developing walking and cycling routes.

"I have always viewed Somerset as a place with the greatest potential for cycling"

Sustrans' Safe Routes to Schools project was started in 1995, with the aim of making changes to the highway, building better facilities at schools and raising awareness of transport, sustainability and health.

The Links to Schools project, which began in 2004, will connect hundreds of schools across England to the National Cycle Network.

"I think every parent should be campaigning for safe routes and if they want help then I would like to encourage them to contact us," says John. "In the mid- 1970s, the Danes had the worst child accident rate in Europe so they passed a rule that every child should have a safe way to school and now 60% of them cycle.

"I think 60% in Taunton and 60% in Bridgwater could cycle to school."

John is certain that Somerset could lead the way on this issue and suggests that the county should also be leading the way in reducing CO2.

"The motorway is a major source of CO2 in Somerset and the best way would be to limit the speed on the motorway to 50mph. It would be difficult to do but if Somerset took the decision that the moment you crossed the boundary you had to do 50, then that would do more to reduce CO2 than anything else."

John lives in Clifton Wood and cycles to the Sustrans head office on Bristol's College Green. He gave up his car long ago, now travelling everywhere by bike or train.

He believes people should be given real incentives to reduce their carbon footprint - such as no VAT at B&Bs if they get there by foot or bike - and likes the idea of carbon credits.

"Holidays are an interesting subject. This is a brilliant country with huge variety, so why not go to the Highlands this year rather than the Himalayas? If you go to Dartmoor instead of Italy you could clock up carbon credits - because sooner or later carbon rationing is going to be introduced."

When this article was written, Sustrans was waiting to see if its Connect2 Lottery bid for £50 million had been successful. Connect2 plans to improve local travel in 79 communities by building walking and cycling bridges and tunnels, developing links and even reinstating a ferry. BY SARAH FORD. PHOTO BY MIKE ALSFORD

For further information on Sustrans call (0845 113 0065 or visit

Do you feel strongly about safe routes to school, holidaying in the UK or CO2-curbing speed limits on our motorways? Air your views on the Forum .


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