Investing in the future of cycling

Back in 2003/2004, the Government challenged the cycle trade to prove that it cared about its own industry, and since then the trade responded to the challenge in spades.
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BA president Philip Taylor (at the BA AGM) revealed that in the past five years, Bike Hub contributions from BA members and IBDs have amounted to around £2 million.

The AGM revealed that Q1 2010 has been the best Q1 the fund has ever seen. Despite the doubters, the funds have been diverted into a varied number of projects – all of which have been designed to boost cyclist numbers and help secure the future of the bike industry.

Taylor said: “This money has been used to support and seed-fund projects such as National Bike Week – that now has a major sponsor in EDF Energy over the next three years. The funds have also been invested in Bikeforall.net, the web portal for all things cycling, soon to be relaunched as ‘Bike Hub’.”

Bike Hub funds have been ploughed into Bike It too: “Bike It started with just four officers in 40 schools and that now, thanks to the generous support of Cycling England, has over 50 officers, with two each in Wales and Scotland, and one in Northern Ireland, working directly with 500 schools across the UK.”

THE BIG IDEAS
In addition to those, Bike Hub cash stumped up for the £100,000 New Ideas Fund for local schemes. Three successful projects won a share of the New Ideas Fund, all of which had representatives at the AGM to reveal how they had begun to use the money in their projects.

Bike Boost Sheffield is a project from Get Cycling of York, targeting would-be cyclists in the workplace. The scheme offers the loan of a bike and paraphernalia in return for a pledge from the participant that they’ll cycle to work for at least 50 per cent of the days in the challenge period (of three to four weeks). Bike Boost works with the participants, giving them training and encouragement.

According to Bike Boost’s Terry Blackwood, the first three weeks are a critical period for returning cyclists, or those new to cycling, and the project concentrates its efforts over that vital period.

The scheme follows an initiative in York that saw 4,502 car miles replaced by bike-based miles, with a hugely impressive
71 per cent of participants continuing to ride to work after the project ended.

Blackwood said: “We believe it is working and we’re really optimistic about how it will turn out.” After the scheme ends the hopefully converted cyclists are passed to local dealers to buy their own cycles and accessories.

Another local project benefiting from the Bike Hub New Ideas Fund is Agewell on Wheels. Lucy Cooper led the presentation on the scheme at the AGM; it has a goal of bringing healthy living and activity through cycling to the over 50s age bracket. Cooper is also part of the London Cycling Campaign, which is handling the project. Agewell on Wheels is targeting those missed audiences for the cycle trade, said Cooper: “We’re really trying to normalise cycling for the over 50s, and send them the message of the independence and freedom it can give them. If you get grandparents into cycling, then they will pass that message to their children. We have to give them the bug.”

The project has just launched and has the backing of charities and local councils – an essential requirement to helping promote the project, Cooper believes. A fleet of bikes is used for taster sessions with a marketing scheme that takes in the internet and leaflets in GPs surgeries. The scheme has its sights set on rolling out across London, with a view to reaching out across the nation. That’s something in common with all three projects, which were chosen specifically as local projects with the potential to be rolled out across the UK.

Finally, Darlovelo is a Darlington-set project targeting young females – another social group of consumers that have traditionally been largely lost to the cycle industry.

Lauren Pyrah explains that Darlovelo grew from the Beauty and the Bike project – a film that took a group of young women from Darlington to bike-friendly Bremen. The scheme aims to make cycling the norm for women, a group that was found to feel that peer pressure and infrastructure stopped them from cycling. Darlovelo’s loaning of Dutch-style bikes and encouragement of a culture of cycling is hoped to eventually roll out to other UK towns.

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