I’ve been leading five case studies for the PCT, to illustrate what can be done with the data. Mostly these case studies have been written in dialogue with stakeholders. This one I’ve picked myself. Preston is my home town and I was pretty confident I could write about it without having extra local advice or needing to make additional trips.
Preston is also interesting because cycling there declined between 2001 and 2011. Over 4 in 5 cycle commuters are male. One of the strong themes that’s coming out in my MSc course (which started again this week – it’s all go!) is how hard it is to generalise about transport at a national level. Cycling on a national level is stagnant, but there are some impressive increases in some places and declines in others. Preston’s one of the latter.
And yet. Preston is compact, and it suffers from congestion (despite being the home of Britain’s first motorway, confusingly enough now called the M6, which sought to end congestion by bypassing the city). It’s relatively flat, in a county with some seriously hilly areas (as I remember, when I’ve returned to the Lancashire countryside). Could Preston have serious cycling potential?
The PCT suggests yes, it does. With the Fylde towns and Lancashire, it’s a hotspot for commuter cycling potential within Lancashire. The report focuses on the “Go Dutch” scenario, where we assume Lancashire commuters become as likely as Dutch commuters to cycle trips to work of specific distance and hilliness. In other words, it assumes infrastructural and cultural barriers to cycling have been overcome, but Lancashire remains hilly and distances from work to home remain as they are.
There are barriers. Fast traffic, narrow lanes: I wouldn’t much like to cycle on the A6- and this is a main road taking people directly into the centre of Preston from the North. Further South there is some footway for a bit, and then you’re kicked back into the road as it becomes much more urban.
The A6 is a challenge. But the PCT analysis suggests that this – and other direct radial routes into and out of Preston city centre – is where a lot of commuter cycling potential exists. By contrast the orbital Guild Wheel route – an attractive, generally off-road circular cycling route around the city – is less likely to help commuter journeys, although a pleasant and useful leisure walking and cycling amenity.
Click on the link to read the Preston case study.