CYCLING campaigners from Worcester need a colourful champion "like Boris Johnson" to fight their corner as they seek to persuade people to ditch four wheels for two.
Campaigner Gerry Taggart of Powick, near Worcester, who has taken part in the Hero Ride to raise money for wounded soldiers says the city needs a figurehead like the Mayor of London to be a cycling ambassador.
Retired lieutenant colonel Mr Taggart, Lyndon Bracewell, Elizabeth Pearson and Mike Cooper want to raise the profile of cycling as part of a drive called "Pushbike!" which works with local cycling clubs in Worcester, Malvern, Droitwich, Evesham and Pershore to improve cycle facilities and encourage more people to enjoy the benefits of riding a bike (www.pushbikecampaign.org/).
Their mission is also to build on the surge in popularity following the Tour de France which showcased the wilds of Yorkshire to the world and
the Tour of Britain which will start a stage in Worcester on September 10.
Mr Taggart said there was a 'lack of a clear joined-up mission' by city and county to improve things for cyclists although they say £4.5 million has been spent in the last five years on improving facilities for cyclists.
Mr Taggart said: "We read constantly in your paper that Worcester people's biggest gripe is congestion and from the public health aspect, obesity (through lack of exercise) and poor air quality are proving unhealthy.
"We cyclists (and walkers) see a less than perfect joining together between city and county (councils). The proposed cancellation of the excellent Park and Ride and the encouragement of city centre parking is a really sad spectacle, which will simply add to congestion, obesity and pollution. And now we read that congestion is one of the main challenges being faced by the city centre development plans. The only talk is about cars; not sustainable transport.
"Our vision is to see a Boris-like champion for cycling in Worcester. While we're not suggesting that the Mayor or the leader ride bikes everywhere, we would really love to see one of them leading the advance towards more cycling and less cars in the city of Worcester and the county. We would dearly love to see a senior local politician or business leader championing the cause.
"We have been given a beautiful new bridge at Diglis. Let's use that as a beacon to push ahead with more foot and pedal traffic using our spectacular riverside and its connections."
Cllr John Smith OBE, county council cabinet member for highways, said: "We fully recognise the importance of promoting cycling as a sustainable alternative to single-car use and are as committed as ever to doing just that, working with all of our partners, including Worcester City Council.
"Over the last five years more than £4.5million has been spent on improving infrastructure for cyclists and walkers as part of the successful Connect2 project, the flagship of which is the hugely popular Diglis Bridge. A number of other schemes have taken place across the city to improve signage, safety and links for cyclists. This will continue with planned works on Worcester's riverside, between Portland Walk and Navigation Road, along with improvements to the Cotswold Way orbital cycle way.
"We're also delighted to be working with the Worcestershire LEP and our district partners, including Worcester City Council, to bring the elite Tour of Britain race back to Worcestershire on September 10."
Cllr David Wilkinson, cabinet member for safer and stronger communities at the city council, said: “The city council is committed to promoting health and wellbeing for Worcester residents. When possible, we look for opportunities to better cater for cyclists, in co-operation with Worcestershire County Council as highways authority.”
Other work by the county includes the production of a popular walking and cycling map for Worcester, the promotion of cycling in schools, giving advice on safety, clothing and repairs, training cyclists to carry out basic repairs and loan of bikes to those considering taking up cycling and working with the Worcestershire LEP and partners to bring the Tour of Britain back to Worcestershire in September.