English writer H. G. Wells wrote “cycle tracks will abound in Utopia” and this is certainly true of Bracknell in the Royal County of Berkshire. Here we remember how the forgotten city planners of the past envisaged the cities of the future.
Bracknell was ahead of its time
If you could pick the best places to live as a cyclist, you might say Copenhagen or Seville. Most cities in the Netherlands might top that list too – but they were all late to the cycle party because when Bracknell was designated a New Town in 1949, town planners put cycle infrastructure top of the agenda.
Roundabouts and dual carriageways
If you don’t know Bracknell and visit by car, you’d be forgiven for thinking it’s a tangled network of dual carriageways and roundabouts. But you may notice that there aren’t many, if any, cyclists on the roads – and for good reason.
Completely segregated cycle path network
Bracknell was built with a completely independent and segregated cycle path network. The locals take it for granted, but it really was a bold and revolutionary design – and the local council continue to expand the network. You can see an online map here.
Low maintenance luxury cycling
Caning a road bike around Bracknell’s cycle paths is something of a luxury. You don’t have to worry about potholes as the roads aren’t used by heavy motor vehicles. Most of the cycle network has never been repaved since it was built in the 1950s and still looks pristine – one reason why Sir Winston Churchill decided to abolish Road Tax for cyclists.
A safe family paradise
Other than a few forestry vehicles caring for the local trees and path-side bushes, no motor vehicles are allowed on Bracknell’s cycle paths. The only hazard to look out for are your fellow cyclists. During the school term many local children commute to school by bike, and local schools like Garth Hill have excellent parking facilities for young cyclists.
Bracknell also has something to offer the serious off-roader. South Hill Park has a hidden BMX circuit, and The Lookout is great for mountain-bikers wanting something a little more aggressive to pursue. For a small fee you get access to miles of Bracknell Forest trails.
What’s good for cyclists is good for motorists
We should always Share the Road, but Bracknell cyclists of all ages to have their own space. Every cycle journey means one less car journey and keeps traffic moving for those of us who might not have any alternative to using our car.
A sunken paradise rediscovered
Where possible, Bracknell’s bike lanes are sunk lower than the roads. You can cycle undisturbed with banks of grass on either side, and an arch of trees over your head. Bracknell’s cycle paths are an undeniable asset – and a contributing factor to the inflation of property prices. It’s no wonder that neighbouring towns are beginning to seriously invest in their own cycle infrastructure. Cycling is a serious part of the future if we want to keep the traffic moving.