Could Bradley ‘the Mod’ Wiggins success at the Tour De France kick-start a British revolution in cycling?
And could his victory inspire more people to start riding recreationally or even start commuting by bicycle?
With British waistlines increasing every year, the nation is in desperate need of a health boost and commuting by bicycle could really fit the bill.
But do we really have the infrastructure to fully embrace commuting by bicycle in this country like many of our European counterparts have been doing for years?
Commuting by Bicycle: In Europe
I’ve just returned from a few weeks holiday travelling around Europe. And I was struck by just how fantastically many of these cities were set up for commuting by bicycle.
I was particularly struck by how bicycle-friendly Vienna was as a city. With around a thousand miles of bicycle tracks and a great low-cost bicycle scheme, they have an infrastructure which actively encourages people to get out of their cars and to use pedal power.
Berlin is a similar story; with over 10% of all trips taken by bicycle and pavements often split for pedestrians and cyclists. See the video below for an example how easy it is to ride around the city:
So with Prime Minister David Cameron and Sport and Olympics Minister Hugh Robertson stating that Bradley Wiggins’ victory was one of the finest moments in the nation’s sporting history, just how can we utilise this success as a springboard for creating better conditions on UK roads for all cyclists?
Matt Hemsley, a PR officer at Sustrans, said:
“There’s no doubt that Wiggins, Froome and Cavendish are inspirational, getting more people, especially youngsters, interested in getting out on their bike.
“But it should also be a lesson to our politicians nationally and locally. Team Sky’s success has not come about by chance; it came about because of a vision, a goal and proper funding covering all aspects of professional cycling.
“We often speak enviously of the set up in cities such as Amsterdam and Copenhagen. Cycling is the normal way to get around. It’s safe, you can wear the clothes you’re wearing to work or on your night out, it’s what everyone does.
“When Team Sky started their journey we all wondered just how achievable it was. Well, they’ve made it happen and two years early to boot. So why can’t that be the same for everyday cycling here in the UK, why can’t we seek to emulate cities in Europe where cycling is the most sensible way to get around?
“To get more people cycling for everyday journeys in the UK, we need to do the same. We need a plan, and clear investment to follow: in new traffic-free routes, a safer road network, slower speed limits, cycle training for young and old, information on how to get around, marketing and promotions showing how easy and healthy it is to get around by bike. No corners cut and no passing the buck. Our politicians should take a lead from Team Sky and have a plan to make us the envy of mainland Europe, not accept it will always be the other way around.
“The race we really need to win is the culture change that makes cycling the preferred choice for local journeys.”
Commuting by Bicycle: Improving the UK infrastructure
Sally Hinchcliffe of advocacy group the Cycling Embassy of Great Britain, said:
“What better opportunity will there be for the country’s politicians to announce that they will be greeting our returning heroes with a policy that puts cycling right at the heart of the UK’s infrastructure? Not just as a sport – on closed roads, or velodrome tracks – but designing cycling into every street and every junction.
“We’d hate to see all those shiny new bikes soon gathering dust in the nation’s sheds once our aspiring Wigginses taste the reality of cycling on our roads. Let’s seize the moment and make Britain’s roads fit for all its cycling heroes, be they as fast as the Manx missile, or just pottering down to the shops.”
I was a keen cyclist myself whilst at University in Wolverhampton. But after being knocked off my bike half a dozen times by motorists who saw me as an annoyance, and the small matter of having my bike stolen, I gave up the bike for the car. That was nearly 20 years ago when I would think nothing of climbing on board my Kona and cycling a 100 miles around Bridgnorth or Cannock Chase.
And probably like a few people out there, Wiggins’ victory has once again sparked an interest in getting back out there on two wheels. But what worries me is the British motorists’ attitudes to cyclists. The video below demonstrates the stark difference between cycling around London and cycling around Berlin.
Could Wiggins’ yellow jersey coupled with the likely success our British cycling team will deliver at the Olympics, be a catalyst for the Highway Authority to start taking cycling seriously in the UK?
Thousands are injured and over a hundred cyclists are killed every year on British roads. And until our roads are made safer to match many of our European counterparts, then I doubt we will see a significant number of people climbing out of their cars and on to bicycles any time soon.
I’d be interested to hear if you are a keen cyclist or if Wiggins’ success has inspired you to head back out on your bike. You can leave your response below, or alternatively pop along to our knowledge network on LinkedIn, which you can find here. Or if you would like to contact me personally, my Twitter and LinkedIn links are below.