Associate Feature: Power of the bike
It’s not long until the Cycling World Championships come to Scotland, and we can experience and celebrate the #PowerOfTheBike – the event’s tagline. I’m excited and proud that this extravaganza of pedal-powered sport is coming to my city in August. My youngest son is mad keen on football so I’ve bought tickets for us to watch the cycle-ball – basically football on bikes – and we will try to catch a glimpse of the road races and time trials too. If the World Championships is anything like the 2014 Commonwealth Games in Glasgow, it will be a fun, colourful, thrilling and inspiring sporting festival.
At Cycling UK, we want people to enjoy and feel inspired by the event, however we also want them to view the bike not just as a piece of elite sports equipment but as an everyday mode of transport. The power of the bike is that it is for everyone, and the vast majority of us can use it to benefit our health and fitness, to get to work or school, and for short local journeys.
Cycling UK is a partner in the event and helping to spread the power of the bike message specifically to rural communities in Orkney, Highland, Eileanan Siar, Moray, and the Scottish Borders through our Rural Connections project. We will be dispersing £225,000 of grants in these areas to enable organisations to purchase their own inclusive cycle fleets for use by local people in their communities. We know that there are unique circumstances in rural and remote communities, which require a tailored approach to ensure everyone has the opportunity to ride for everyday journeys, leisure and adventure.
Studies show that big sporting events do not create the legacy of a lasting increase in sports participation or a more active population, as hoped for by governments and organisers. I truly hope it is different this year and we see many more children and older people participating in cycling for sport, for fun or to get around.
A realistic legacy aim for the World Championships in Glasgow must be a sustained increase in people cycling as part of their normal lives. But this can only happen if national and local government across Scotland work together to prioritise invest in cycling as a mode of transport and create the conditions which make cycling a safe, easy and pleasurable option for daily journeys.
The Scottish Government has committed to spending 10% of the transport budget on active travel next year. Investment at this level will put Scotland in the right place to become a cycle-friendly nation but will only create a legacy if that level of spend is maintained in years to come.
Scotland needs to create a larger, more coherent network of safe cycle routes which we know from experience will enable people to shift from using a car to riding a bike. But the capital funding for this must be balanced 80:20 with resource funding for projects - like Rural Connections and Bikeability – which give people the skills, confidence and support to ride, and utilise the new cycling infrastructure in our neighbourhoods. Only 7% of the current Scottish Budget is spent on projects like these.
My fingers are crossed for many unmissable moments during the World Championships as elite athletes compete for a coveted rainbow jersey – ‘I was there’ moments. For our governments and politicians the ‘power of the bike’ mustn’t end when the final medal is won. Instead, our leaders must ‘pedal on’ and not miss this golden opportunity to leave a lasting cycling legacy which makes our nation healthy, happy, active, and low-carbon.
This article is sponsored by Cycling UK