York could become one of the happiest places in the world – with the right leadership.
That’s the opinion of one of the city’s leading entrepreneurs and sustainable transport campaigners.
Andy Shrimpton co-founded Cycle Heaven, which this month celebrated its 30th birthday with a party and exhibition at its Hospital Fields Road HQ.
And he believes that York is at a crossroads – and by taking the right road, it will lead to much greater wellbeing and happiness.
“What I would like to see is a much more innovative transport strategy from the council,” he told YorkMix
“And the mood music’s good. We’ve got a fresh council and a lot of fresh ideas. I’m hopeful we’ll see serious changes, and turn a corner.
“The world’s a scary place these days. But if we have enlightened political leadership that develops York in the direction of cities you see in places like the Netherlands, Denmark, parts of Germany – these places are wonderful, they’re really great places to live.
“If you can get around and access most things you need in life on foot or by bike, or public transport, and you only use your car sparingly, everyone will benefit.
“These places I’m talking about rate really high on happiness indexes. They’re the happiest places in the world.
“And they’re wealthy, they’re successful. There doesn’t have to be an economic cost. That excites me.
“And we have the tools now. E-bikes and e-cargo bikes are a real game changer.”
Policy ‘could be phenomenal’
Andy was inspired to create Cycle Heaven after a visit to Copenhagen in the Eighties – a modern capital city with people-centred public spaces that wasn’t dominated by the car.
He never wanted to start a nationwide chain of shops. “It wasn’t about the bikes, it was about the bicycle in the community,” he said.
Since then, “we’ve come a long way,” he said. “We’ve expanded, very considerably. We run three sites, and employ a few people.
“And we finally think we’re beginning to have a bit of an impact on the policy debates about transport in York, which is really important and dear to my heart.”
Andy is a big backer of the York Cycle Campaign, and pivotal in the manifesto the campaign published earlier this year, 42 Ways To Transform York.
He also believes many residents want things to change. “I think there’s an appetite in York to really think a lot more intelligently about transport.
“I really like the idea of the council talking about reducing car use by 20%. If they do, that’ll be phenomenal.
“Actually, I think it’s very achievable. If you ask yourself, could you drive 20% less? For most people, the answer is yes. If you give them the incentive to do it, the answer is definitely yes.
‘Harrods of bikes’
When he started up, he had a “fantasy of having one big fabulous store, like a Harrods of bikes”.
And that came true eight years ago when Cycle Heaven moved into “wonderful premises” on Hospital Fields Road. Originally a Victorian military warehouse, it is North Yorkshire’s largest cycle store and workshop with 10,000sq ft of retail space.
And now they have a new café partner, Brian Furey, who used to run The Gillygate pub in York.
The business also operates a bike repair shop at York Station and at the Angel on the Green café bar on Bishopthorpe Road.
Andy said the team “worked our socks off during the pandemic, it was a really tumultuous time for us” as people took up cycling during the lockdowns.
“But there was a post-pandemic slump, which we’re just about out of now. It was a boom and bust scenario for us.”
Now he is looking to the next 30 years – and he is hopeful about what the decades could bring.