New partnership will bring a host of cycling benefits to north Oxfordshire
By Tom Slingsby, Cherwell District Council
It’s been a great summer for participation in cycling in north Oxfordshire. More and more members of the community are discovering that two wheels are better than four when it comes to staying fit and discovering the great outdoors.
Pre-pandemic Oxfordshire was already in the top 20 areas for frequency of bike journeys made and the government says that in 2020 cycling increased by as much as 200 per cent. At Cherwell District Council we want to make the most of this interest, so we’ve been working on a number of exciting programmes to boost participation.
COVID saw a massive boom in the number of bikes sold in the UK and many stockists’ shelves are now looking a bit threadbare. Dusting off an old bike and giving it a new lease of life is for many people, the best – and the most sustainable – option. That’s why we offer free ‘Dr Bike’ bike maintenance sessions throughout the district, removing the obstacles for anyone who is not sure how to change an inner tube or align their brake callipers. The scheme has already put hundreds of bikes back on the road, and you’ll find them regularly advertised on the council’s social media.
As part of our work to increase physical activity in deprived areas of the district, families with a FAST card can even access refurbished bikes free of charge. FAST is funded by Sport England, and we are proud of our work attracting big players like them to our area to boost participation. Off the back of that, we recently announced a fresh partnership with British Cycling.
The sport’s governing body are not just about helping the likes of the Kennys win gold medals; they are also all about grassroots participation. During the week just gone they’ve been running free BMX taster sessions for kids at Banbury’s Spiceball skate park. Lots of work training volunteers to deliver further activities in Cherwell district is also happening behind the scenes. Ten ladies have already been trained to lead Breeze Rides. These are fun, non-competitive bike rides – for women only – and they are already underway! They are for women of all abilities, so to find a Breeze ride near you, search the British Cycling website.
Summer may be drawing to a close, but the riding continues, and there will be much more to get excited about into autumn and beyond. Oxfordshire’s first Celebration of Cycling will launch on Saturday 28th August for 5 weeks, culminating in the first stage of the Women’s Tour that will be raced from Bicester to Banbury, via Oxford and Abingdon, on Monday 4 October.
Of course, cycling is not all about fancy carbon fibre bikes – we hope having elite sport in our area will inspire people to ride whatever bike they feel most comfortable on. As part of our work with British Cycling we’ve got 10 volunteers signed up for training to lead family bike rides, and another 15 who will be trained to deliver sessions at local schools.
We think there’s never been a better time to be a cyclist in north Oxfordshire.
Photo: Newly trained Breeze Champions, June 2021.