As we enter a new decade, three cycling organisations look ahead to what are sure to be key industry trends throughout 2020. Today, we hear from Matt Mallinder, director of influence and engagement, Cycling UK
In December, before the country headed to the polls, I had a vision of the future – a nightmare where the Government had learned nothing from the past and maintained the status quo, where nothing changed, nothing happened. It was depressing.
I’m talking of course about the state of cycling in Britain, where for the last twenty years the numbers of people cycling is largely static at 2% of all journeys. We’ve seen a decrease in journeys cycled by children by 10% in the last ten years, and increases largely among one demographic – white middle-aged men.
As I rode into work, the dark cloud of the nightmare began to dissipate and the silver linings appear. The positive changes I have seen in 2019, I sincerely believe will carry on through into 2020 and beyond. I’m talking about how across the country, communities are realising that high streets don’t have to be highways. They can instead by places where people gather and stay – places where they can walk and cycle in safety.
In 2019, it was incredible how the environment crept up the agenda into people’s consciousness whether through Extinction Rebellion, the Greta effect or the fact that our climate is visibly changing – despite the other issues competing for our attention.
We’ve seen Governments across the UK declare a climate emergency. There’s widespread recognition that the UK’s air quality is appalling, and needs to be improved. With 57% of car journeys in Great Britain being five miles or less, and transport one of the greatest polluters, cycling is part of the solution and should not be ignored. All of which is making people begin to think about their everyday choices, including the way they get about.
More people cycling, will inevitably mean more sales and more profit for manufacturers and local bikes shops. There’s an opportunity for local bike shops to be part of the local conversations on how we can change our ways of getting about – to promote all types of cycling and support cycling advocacy.
So my prediction for 2020, is not going to be about new industry developments, or whether e-bikes will usurp gravel bikes, but rather that we – charities, industry and consumers – are going to see a continued change in the way we perceive and do our cycling.
It’s great to see continued growth in cycling with one demographic – long may it continue – but more needs to be done to make cycling attractive to women, to the young and old, and to the wider multi-cultural society that makes up Britain, and this is where we will start to notice change next year. In the past, the business has largely left it to the user to solve the problems we all face as cyclists, whether that’s the lack of decent infrastructure and joined up routes, the postcode lottery for cycle training or poor road conditions.
But the cycle industry, from manufacturers to the local bike shop, can make a difference and help in build tomorrow’s cyclists. While in many ways the industry has already done this through initiatives like the Bike Hub, more can and must be done to increase the diversity in cycling. The benefits won’t just be the building of a better environment for us all to live in, but also with more people cycling there will be obvious business opportunities too.
Money matters to whatever colour Government we have, and cycling is a definite earner for the Treasury. The cycle industry employs tens of thousands of people with a broad range of skills across the UK and generates £5.4 billion for the UK economy every year according to the Bicycle Association. It’s worth more than the steel industry, but outside of our own little bubble, these benefits are little known. If we together can get more people cycling – and that means from different demographics – then the sector’s value can only grow too.
However, organisations like Cycling UK can’t increase the numbers of people cycling alone. We need industry’s support, we need the industry to stand up for cycling and highlight to the Treasury that investing in cycling is a smart choice for the budget, environment and society at large.
The cycle industry’s voice matters on both a local and national level, and it is my hope and prediction we will start to hear it loud and clear in 2020.