COUNCIL leaders have announced a £25 million ‘cycling strategy’ for Southampton.

The cash will aim to increase the 45 miles of cycle routes around the city, and up the amount of all journeys made by bike to 15 per cent by 2025.

Most of the money – to come from both central government and the City Council – will go towards improving cycling infrastructure and will include the introduction of ‘cycling freeways,’ with the aim of enabling cyclists to get from one side of the city to the other via a continuous route.

Councillor Christopher Hammond, head of Southampton’s ‘transformation projects’ said 55 per cent of all residents in the city already own a bike, but currently only five per cent of all journeys in the city are made by bike.

He said: “That’s similar to Brighton but we are looking to treble that by 2025. When you are sitting in a car you are breathing in nine times more noxins than if you walking or cycling alongside a traffic jam because it’s a confined space.”

Money will be spent on cycle safety working with Hampshire Constabulary with campaigns like Close Pass and Be Safe Be Seen, as well as awareness campaigns with taxis and HGV drivers.

There will be seven cycle parking and on-street maintenance hubs in areas including Woolston, Portswood, Shirley and the city centre.

Signs will be put up along three ‘Southampton Cycling Network’ corridors and training with schemes like Bikeability with up to 20 schools a year will be rolled out.

The council also plans to work with Hampshire Constabulary to provide bike marking, registration, and security locks and My Journey will run cycling services and activities.

There will also be a number of temporary cycle parking facilities for big events like Common People and the Boat Show.

And councillors promised a Public Cycle Hire service for the city.

Cllr Hammond added there are no plans to completely pedestrianise any more roads in the city, but changes to roads will be looked at on a case by case basis.

A total of £400,000 will go towards a partnership with British Cycling, who will promote events and services such as City Ride - which yesterday saw thousands take to the streets in a mass bike ride around the city.

And councillors are working on plans to make it a week-long ‘cycling festival.’

City transport chief Cllr Jacqui Rayment said: “We want to transform Southampton into a true cycling city to create a liveable, integrated, thriving and mobile city where cycling is a daily norm, not an exception.”

Cllr Satvir Kaur, the city’s lead on culture, communities and sport added: “I only learned how to ride a bike as an adult two years ago. If I can do it, anyone can.”

And on the cycling strategy, she added: “It’s not going to be easy but Southampton City Council are really committed to it. Part of it is going to have to be a modal shift – getting employers involved and getting school children to walk more. Everyone is going to have a part to play.”