Bedford - Town of Cyclists

Bedford has always been a cycling town and the 2011 census showed that more than 5% of residents travelled to work by bicycle. Although not up at the levels of Cambridge or Oxford it is nevertheless in the top quarter for cycling in the United Kingdom. This is in some measure due to the town's relatively flat and compact area with all parts including Kempston and the suburbs of Biddenham, Bromham, Clapham and Elstow being within a 15 minute cycle of the town centre.

Bedford Cycle Network

The idea for an urban cycle network came from a 1952 town planning report - Bedford by the River - which resulted in the construction of four cycle tracks to improve cross town communications for cyclists on the west and south of the town to give an embryonic network of 12km of off-road routes. With the increasing use of the private motor car and the resultant conflict between motorists and cyclists and pedestrians the network was significantly expanded during the 1970s and 1980s and has been continuously increased to the present day to give a cycle route network of more than 160km on off-road paths/tracks, on-road along quiet roads as well as cycle lanes along some of the busier roads. A brief history of the Bedford cycle network published in 2012 to coincide with CCNB's 20th Anniversary can be seen here.

Experienced, confident cyclists have always had the whole road network at their disposal but for most other cyclists - beginners, children and those less confident or agile - and for residents who would like to start to cycle, the use of the network enables a cyclist to travel safely and quickly from all residential area to all destinations in the town and to the countryside. A route exists within 200 metres of most dwellings in the Bedford and Kemspton urban area.

To encourage more residents to cycle CCNB in 2001 created a Bedford and Kempston Cycle Map to show where the network existed. This has gone from strength to strength with 35,000 copies sold or distributed over seven printed editions, the last one in January 2017. Since then the on-line version only has been regularly updated. The latest 2020 9th Edition can be seen here.

Numerous housing developments in progress in and around the town, including the regeneration of parts of the town centre itself (Great Denham, Kempston West, Wixams, New Cardington, Riverside North) will see the addition of further cycle infrastructure over the next few years.

A desk study of the cycle network in 2003 resulted in the identification of 13 strategic cycle routes in the town. This has now been updated to create a network of 27 radial routes (seven routes for confident cyclists - mostly on main roads, four on medium busy roads - and 16 on a mixture of off-road paths and tracks and quiet residential roads), focused on the town centre, with one orbital route. The routes can be seen on a 'tube type' map and the route names here.

Over the next few years each route will be signposted headed by the abbreviation BCN followed by a number and the distance to a destination quoted as a time in minutes based on a typical door to door cycling speed of 9.3 mile per hour (15km/h).

cycling over bridge

Ford End Road Bridge - Early 1960s

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