More Cycle Lanes for Cardiff – A Step in The Right Direction, Or a Financial Pitfall?

It is unsurprising that urban development toward cycling has been a prominent topic of discussion among sustainable transport stakeholders. In the last decade, cycling has increased substantially in the UK; the cycling traffic index for England alone reported a 15.5% increase in cycling traffic levels between 2013 and 2023[1]. Understandably, the allocation of government funding by local councils to cycling infrastructure is an expected consequence. However, this blanket increase in cycling, as well as the subsequent development of cycling infrastructure is not entirely equal across cities in the UK.

In April 2024, The Welsh Government approved over £100 million to be spent on improving and developing public transport and wider economic growth. Part of this scheme included the allocation of £4.15 million to the construction of a new cycle lane inside Roath Park, an addition to the many cycle lanes across Cathays that began construction in 2021[2]. Though the construction of these cycle lanes has sought to make Cardiff more connected and accessible, especially through the use of shared mobility (bikes, e-bikes, e-scooters), the question of whether these cycle lanes will actually be utilised is a remaining issue.

The first wave of cycle lane construction within Cardiff was considerably divisive. Numerous road closures across the construction period and the removal of large areas of residential parking were guaranteed to infuriate residents, especially with the allocation of missing parking zones to already congested high-traffic areas.[3] Additionally, cycling within Cardiff has also been decreasing: with only 19% of residents cycling regularly in 2023, a reduction compared to 23% in 2021.[4] This decrease has ceaselessly seemed an inevitability, partly associated with one overarching factor: the closure of the Nextbike (a cycle hire company) scheme across the city..

Nextbikes arrived in Cardiff at the beginning of 2018, with the construction of 25 hire stations at the start of the year, increasing to 50 stations by the end of the year. Nextbikes allowed anyone to temporarily hire a bike across the city, with the individual being charged a fee based on the time they spent cycling.[5] The Nextbike scheme was, understandably, widely successful; Cardiff is a densely populated city with a large portion of commuters and students, a fact that made its sudden closure even more inconveniencing. Nextbike was forced to recall all of its remaining bikes in 2023 due to vandalism, stripping the ability to cycle from tourists and Cardiff residents who did not have the financial access or the storage capability for a bike of their own.[6]

The creation of new cycle lanes in Cardiff, therefore, seems too ambitious. With cycle rates continuing to decline and a replacement for hireable bikes still unsourced, their creation seems to solve the middle of a problem that is yet to fix its beginning. Without the infrastructure to support wider access to bikes or a replacement to the Nextbike scheme with an alternative shared mobility option, these new cycle lanes seem destined to be left empty and unridden

[1] Department for Transport, “Cycling traffic index, England”, GOV.UK, 24th April 2024, [Online]. Available: Cycling traffic index, England – GOV.UK (www.gov.uk) [Accessed: 25/04/2024]

[2] Welsh Government, “Local authority transport grants awarded 2024 to 2025”, 20th April 2024, [Online], Available: Local authority transport grants awarded 2024 to 2025 | GOV.WALES, [Accessed: 25/04/2024]

[3] Parking Zones, “Cycleway 1.2: Cathays Terrace to UHW”, Keeping Cardiff Moving, 19th June 2020, [Online], Available: Cycleway 1.2: Cathays Terrace to UHW – Keeping Cardiff Moving, [Accessed: 25/04/2024]

[4] Sustrans, “Cardiff Walking and Cycling Index 2023”, March 2024, [Online], Available: Walking and Cycling Index 2023: Cardiff (sustrans.org.uk), [Accessed: 25/04/2024]

[5] B Kubitz, “Cardiff City Bike Share: A Study in Success”, cyclingindustries.com, December 2018, [Online], Available: Untitled (cyclingindustries.com), [Accessed: 25/04/2024]

[6] Welsh Government, “Active travel delivery plan 2024-2027”, 14th March 2024, [Online] Available: Active travel delivery plan 2024 to 2027 (gov.wales), [Accessed: 25/04/2024]

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