FEATURE: The biggest Bike Week yet - BikeBiz

FEATURE: The biggest Bike Week yet

That’s the buzz around this year’s event. Jonathon Harker speaks to some of the key players and participants...
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At a glance:

WHAT: The annual week-(ish) long bicycle promoting series of events, aiming to give people across the UK chance to give cycling a go
WHEN: Saturday June 19th to Sunday June 27th
WHERE: Nationwide
HEADLINE SPONSOR: EDF Energy –Team Green Britain
MORE INFORMATION: Available from the official site – www.Bikeweek.org.uk – with links to local events, workshops and a number of resources designed to help anyone getting involved with Bike Week

The Bike Week phenomenon has endured throughout the decades despite recessions, and even actual wars. The annual event is tasked with celebrating bicycles and, most crucially of all, encouraging folk to get on their bikes. Having started back in 1923 (thanks Wikipedia) this year’s event runs from Saturday June 19th to Sunday June 27th.

The eagle eyed will have noticed this year’s Bike Week is bringing something different to the mix, so to speak. Team Green Britain Bike Week, to give it its official title, is sponsored by EDF’s Team Green Britain. The energy giant – also a key sponsor of the forthcoming 2012 Olympic Games – has signed up to support Bike Week for three years, providing support and hard cash for the events.

The sponsored money will be directed to 12 workshops across the UK for new and existing event organisers, tailored event organiser guides and increased web functionality.

Cycling England Chairman Phillip Darnton believes the sponsorship is hugely significant for the annual fixture. He tells BikeBiz: “This year is a big departure from the past as Bike Week has the backing of EDF Energy.

“Bike Week has always been about grass roots activities and has lacked any kind of new momentum and impetus, and now Team Green Britain will provide that. The money the team has put behind the event is unprecedented.”

EDF’s involvement is not just about cash though – it’s potentially much more than that, as Darnton explains: “It’s great that it is a national organisation – it has one million customers. It is supporting Bike Week for the next three years, so imagine if it decided to include something about Bike Week in every bill it sends to all its customers. It’s something we’ve never had before on that scale.”

But, as Darnton is quick to point out Bike Week is about locally organised events for local people. One such locality that has rolled up its sleeves and got involved for the past half-decade is Exeter – one of the first cycling cities set up by Cycling England.

Cycle Exeter project officer Heather Baker explains: “We felt it was important to set an example for other towns and make a big fuss of Bike Week. One of the ways we do that is with Cycle Sunday – a big annual cycling celebration for all the family. We have short charity bike rides to raise money and just to get families out on their bikes. We’ve got MTB BMX trials, displays and cycling circus. We’ve run that for five years now.”

While it’s almost a cliché to say that some bike shops are unwilling to get involved in Bike Week as it’s a typically busy time anyway at retail, Exeter is one city that sets a shining example of how the trade can get involved. Baker elaborates: “We always use our local shops and we work with them to provide free Dr Bike clinics at the events. We do free security tagging with the police and we basically invite many of the local bike shops and the clubs to the events.”

It’s not just events either. Cycle Exeter works closely with dealers at workplaces during and in the run up to Bike Week. With schools tied-up with closing down for the summer, workplaces are key places where new cyclists can be encouraged and existing riders can be supported.

“One bike shop had an idea to set up a pump station along some of the cycle routes during Bike Week last year. We were there from about seven until nine every morning supporting those that cycle regularly by pumping their tyres up and encouraging people to look after their bikes. It’s amazing how many people you see riding around with flat tyres.”

Of course, Exeter is one of many cities and towns in the UK that is already putting plans together to encourage people to saddle up during Bike Week. And when the industry has just endured a recession with only a few flesh wounds, plus added impetus from EDF’s sponsorship, when better and what better time to get behind Bike Week?

Darnton concludes: “At the start of the new Millennium everyone gave it a go and lots of organisations got involved. Bike Week has grown over the years with lots of organisations getting involved and now, with the backing of EDF, it really should be the biggest Bike Week ever.”

NOTE: This feature originally appeared in the May edition of BikeBiz. To catch up with the rest of that issue click here.

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