THE BLOG

Prodding the Sleeping Giant- Keeping the Rise of Cycling Rolling

30/07/2014 14:33 BST | Updated 28/09/2014 10:59 BST

The public's incredible reaction to the Tour de France which finished on Sunday may have surprised some, but its legacy through quality cycling provision in Britain must be a surprise to no-one.

Great Britain has often been regarded as the sleeping giant of cycling. As one of the largest and most developed countries in Europe, coupled with great sporting pedigree it's curious that cycling both as a sport and as a method of transport has been side-lined in Britain so much over the previous 50 years. Perhaps as a consequence of a very 'motor minded' transport policy, the fact that essentially designing out bicycle use from our standard road system has in effect designed it out of our subconscious in general.

A yellow tour de France bicycle hangs from a pub sign

Whilst Europe embraced the motor car, it never really lost its passion for the humble bicycle. Here in the UK we looked wholesale to the US for our vision of the future, and lost our taste for cycling in the process. However times they are a 'changing and due to various influences, from the Wiggins affect to concerns over carbon emissions, cost of transport and health scares Britain is coming back to the bicycle.

A great litmus test for this change of heart is of course the Tour de France. From the cobbled high passes of the Yorkshire Dales to the wide boulevards of London, five million people turned out and countless millions more tuned in to see the greatest cycling spectacle on earth.

We have everything to gain from more cycling in Britain:

People cycling down the road

As two thirds of private car journeys are less than five miles, the bicycle is a great alternative way to get around locally. By choosing to bike instead of drive, people will reduce their transport costs and stimulate the economy for local businesses. With rising obesity levels costing the NHS billions; physical inactivity is seriously impacting our health and our tax coffers. Time spent in road congestion and breathing in air pollution from stop-start urban traffic is taking years off our lives. All of these modern maladies can be tackled with the bicycle.

We may be ahead of the world in the quality of our riders, but trail miserably in cycling provision on our streets. The public will is there but most are still concerned with road safety; half of adults believe their local roads are too dangerous to cycle on.

This lag must be addressed immediately if we are to continue the momentum behind the British cycling revolution and capitalise on all the benefits to be had from it.

A man paints a king of the mountains shirt on the road in yorkshire

The Tour seems to have captured the public's imagination, but does that translate into more cycling?

In a quick public poll this week we found that 25% of people felt inspired to start cycling or to cycle more because of the Tour. Generally there are stages to people changing behaviour, and awareness, inspiration and desire are crucial to taking action, so events like the Tour help us with the first three, so seeing this percentage of people inspired is great. And of course for more people to take action and actually get on their bike we need to ensure the convenience and infrastructure are right, as well as people feeling inspired.

As 'public pinup' - Sir Bradley Wiggins - takes to the Sir Chris Hoy Velodrome at Glasgow 2014 this week, by now surely it's apparent to even the most entrenched cycle cynic that the great British people have embraced cycling, and want to get on their bikes. With cross party support of the recommendations in Get Britain Cycling report, it looks like the sleeping giant is finally starting to stir- the government would do right to be ready to continue to encourage and channel this new found excitement from events like the Tour into committing to serious long term funding for safe cycling infrastructure and reducing speed limits to make our roads less hostile.

A woman rides a bicycle in the sunshine