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Having spent much of the last three years living there as a student, it’s probably about time I wrote a ‘cycling in…’ posts about Leicester; if nothing else, to prove there’s more to it than curry houses, Walkers crisps and car parks where the remains of former Kings of England are found.
Many big cities in the UK can be less ideal for cyclists, though, so how does cycling in Leicester compare?
Leicester Cycling Statistics
Well, perhaps unsurprisingly, it can be quite hit-and-miss.
For instance, a study published by Toothpick showed the percentage of people in each UK city who cycle at least once a week, for any amount of time. Leicester received a measly score of 2.3/10, based on annual survey data from the Department for Transport.
This was not just based on how healthy people are in Leicester, though, but also how easy it is to cycle – whether there are enough safe cycle paths, how much traffic there is, and so on.
And like everywhere else, of course, it has its dangerous parts; earlier this year, the Leicester Mercury reported that 827 cyclists were hurt or killed in the city and the wider county from 2015 to 2017.
But for the best part of the last 15 years now, the city has been committed to make it a more bike-friendly place for cyclists, not least through its ‘Connecting Leicester’ project, which has aimed to make links between different parts of the region easier to access.
It is estimated that about 17,000 people cycle in Leicester on a regular basis, so it is far from impossible to your bike out around the city.
This may sound like a lot, but considering its population is in excess of 300,000, it only accounts for about five per cent of its inhabitants, so there is still some way to go before it becomes a truly thriving cycling community.
Cycling Routes in Leicester
This Ordnance Survey map shows you the best cycling routes in Leicester lasting no more than two hours or extending longer than 40 kilometres:
The city centre is surprisingly well-pedestrianised, with cycling lanes laid out almost everywhere, and some great routes can be found nearby, such as the ride from Leicester to the quaint village of Market Harborough, which should take just shy of two hours.
Nearby, there’s a route which leads to the Stamford Arms pub, or another which takes you to Watermead Park; neither of which should last you more than half an hour.
I always enjoyed the more picturesque setting of New Walk leading towards the city centre, but has never been changed from a ‘traffic-free’ walkway for more than 200 years now.
Further afield also provides a great experience of Leicester when out on your bike, whether it be from Rothley to Western Park, or the lengthier venture out to Martinshaw Woods.
Leicester Bike Hire
Again, hiring bikes is another scheme that is gradually improving in Leicester, most recently when its own ‘Boris Bikes’-style plans were sanctioned in March.
Leicester City Council secured £8 million to improve public transport in the area, with £6.25 million being spent on improving walking and cycling links in the city centre and £500,000 on creating this new bike hire scheme, which should be underway by the autumn (though the cost to hire one is not yet known).
For now, there aren’t a great deal of places to hire bikes in and around the city, but Future Cycles, right in the centre of Leicester, or Green Hybrid Bikes slightly further out, are your best bets.
Bike Shops in Leicester
As well as your token Evans and Halfords stores, Leicester has many more great bike shops which can provide you the help or repair you need, or find you your ideal bike.
Julie’s Cycles and Rutland Cycling are both highly recommended, neither of which are more than a 15-minute drive from the city centre, either.
And if you’re looking for where to buy second hand bikes in Leicester, look no further than Fix My Bike Cycles or The Bike Pedlar.
Where to Lock Your Bike in Leicester
In terms of secure cycle parking, Leicester is well-equipped with plenty of places to leave your bike in safe hands.
In the city centre, on the corner of Town Hall Square and Horsefair Street, there is a secure indoor parking area for bikes, as well as other facilities such as showers, changing rooms, toilets and lockers.
It is open from 8am until 6.30pm on Monday to Friday, 8.30am to 6pm on Saturday, and 10 to 4pm on Sunday. You can check the terms and conditions here.
Elsewhere, Leicester’s railway station can also accommodate 222 bikes should you find yourself initially entering or leaving the city by train.
Underneath the station, in what was formerly the old Red Star parcels area, there are parking spaces for your bike with changing rooms, CCTV, air conditioning and a secure key fob entry system. There is also a departures screen so you can keep track of time before your train arrives or leaves.
So, that’s Leicester; a ‘hidden gem of England’ as one of my former lecturers born and raised in the city often referred to it. In many ways, from a cycling perspective, he’s probably right; on the surface, Leicester looks it suffers from the same shortcomings as any other English city, but though it’s certainly from for perfect for cyclists yet, dig a little deeper and you’ll find there’s more to it than meets the eye.
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