Monday, 14 October 2013


The cycling ‘Tour of Britain’ hit town on the 186km Cumbria stage; it was the second day of the 8-day event that has been run since 2004. As the cyclists passed by our village, they grouped around a breakaway and large chasing pack. They were cheered on by a huge fanfare and hundreds of onlookers straining to catch a glimpse of Sir Bradley Wiggins or Mark Cavendish. By the time they reached us they looked pretty bedraggled, having already taken on several steep climbs, including the 250 metres straight up at the challenging Honister Pass, in pouring rain no less.

The enthusiasm surrounding this year’s tour reflects how cycling has become very popular since the 2012 Olympics. I don’t recall such coverage on TV or locally before, but following Team GB’s success on the track and road, everyone is much more aware of the sport.

But it’s not just competitive cycling that has responded to the ‘Olympic effect’ as I like to term it. In a report commissioned by British Cycling and Team Sky, 28% of those surveyed had been inspired to acquire bikes or other equipment by the games; moreover, levels of participation have risen amongst both regular and occasional cyclists. Commuting by bike has also risen. As British Cycling states: "10 mph will get you to your workplace 2.5 miles away in 15 minutes. There are no traffic jams. No CO2 emissions”.

As well as the environmental benefits, there are also health benefits. “When you're cruising along steadily at 10mph you're burning fuel at an equivalent rate of 879 miles per gallon.Or to put it another way, for your five mile round trip, you’ll burn around 250 calories per day. That's 1250 calories per week, without going to the gym. Win, win.” The British Cycling website is full of top tips on how to start cycling.

In the London cycle hire scheme (often known as ‘Boris Bikes’), there were 998,755 cycle hires just in July 2013, with 22.6 million hires since the scheme got rolling in December 2010! Roughly half of these are casual users choosing a better way to get around, and the rest are probably commuters. Waterloo station has emerged as the busiest docking station.

This trend shows how attitudes have changed. Being more sustainable has many pay-offs. Widening participation is one thing, maintaining the Olympic legacy is another. As the cyclists found yesterday as they powered up the final stretch of the well-named ‘Beast Banks’ in Kendal, the last lap can be the hardest! The race statistics themselves seemed to confirm this, as leader Thomas Lovkvist was overtaken on the Bank by German rider Gerald Ciolek in the last 20 seconds.

David Jackman

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