Does elite cycling get people onto their bikes?

Does elite cycling get people onto their bikes?

By Andy Chivers

Andy is a trustee of Cyclox

We were promised that the legacy of the London Olympics in 2012 would be a new enthusiasm for sport and fitness in the UK. There was a brief increase in physical activity, but it didn’t last. Ironically, the pandemic was more effective at getting people to take exercise, but again, as routines returned to normal, regular exercise got squeezed out.

Does cycle racing spur us on?

So what about elite cycling? Will that get more people riding bikes?

  • Last year we had the excitement of the Women’s Tour of Britain coming to Oxfordshire.
  • The men’s Tour of Britain is a high-profile race taking place this September, through beautiful British countryside.
  • Starting on 1 July we have the Men’s Tour de France, an even more extraordinary feat of strength and endurance. It has 21 cycling stages, many of them in the mountains, and all in the heat of summer.

It is impossible not to admire the strength and stamina of those riders.

The publicity around these events makes one ask: does cycle racing encourage ordinary people to get on their bikes? Maybe not. Seeing elite cyclists in gruelling events may reinforce the belief that cycling is for other people – mainly fit young men in Lycra, on bikes that weigh nothing and cost the earth. Cycle racing must seem to most of us a world apart from riding your bike around the city.

Somehow, we need to get a different message across – that cycling is not the preserve of the super fit but is for (almost) everyone.

It can be done slowly, at your leisure, and you don’t need to be particularly fit to ride for several miles.

What does make people cycle?

Cycling has the potential to become ingrained in our way of life. It offers more than just sport. It can get us to work or school, help us shop and visit friends. Cyclox aims to make it easier for everyone to get on a bike and ride safely in and around Oxford, so we are interested in what encourages people to take up cycling. 

Almost certainly, the main influence is other people: friends, family and acquaintances. Seeing ordinary people happily riding bikes around the neighbourhood makes it seem possible for others to try it. Example and word of mouth is the best advert. This is where JoyRiders (women-only rides led by women in Oxford) is so effective. It not only shows that bikes are for women as much as for men, it also helps new cyclists choose routes that feels safe and pleasant. The same is true for e-bikes – hearing from e-bike owners how they use their bikes helps you imagine using one yourself.

And here is a conundrum. Most people driving cars are on main roads. They don’t see the happy cycle rider on the quiet cycle path nearby, but do see the cyclists who are battling with traffic on the main road. Their impression is inevitably blinkered by the route they take. They are unaware of the lovely quiet alternatives that exist. 

Be an ambassador

The elite Tour de France cyclists are probably not the best ambassadors for cycling. Those of us riding bikes around the city take on that role. By example we may encourage others to think riding a bike is possible for them. We need to remember this as we ride and think how we can offer a positive image of cycling:

  • Smile.
  • Be considerate of others.
  • Ride confidently and take the lane when you need to.
  • Wear normal clothes.

And imagine that each ride you go on might convince a car driver to become a bike rider. Now that’s something to smile about.


One Response

  1. […] un pièce pour la campagne cycliste Cyclox basée à Oxford, Andy Chivers, un administrateur du groupe a posé la question : « Est-ce que le cyclisme […]

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