One million more people riding bikes by 2013, that’s the aim of the Sky-British Cycling partnership who kick start their campaign with a series of five mass participation Skyrides in cities across the UK this summer.
This exciting project reflects cycling’s – and British Cycling’s growing profile – in all its spheres. For it promises not only to bring about the critical mass required to make the roads safer, it also presents a unique opportunity for British Cycling to boost membership, and bring more people into the sport.
This major cycling promotion is the biggest ever attempted in the UK, aiming is to capitalise on cycling’s record breaking Olympic medal haul from Beijing, which made household names of Sir Chris Hoy and Victoria Pendleton.
The events build on the original London Freewheel annual event in 2007, which last year was promoted by Sky and British Cycling in partnership with Transport for London.
The London event is one of five mass rides this summer, in Manchester, Glasgow, Leicester and Hounslow. Ian Drake, chief executive of British Cycling, explained the background, and how the Skyrides are just one part of the formula for getting more people cycling.
“This is about having a closed road and getting people out on their bikes, getting their bikes out of the shed. The idea goes back to when we first had our discussion with Sky about sponsorship. It was always about mass participation, how do we use BC’s OIympic success to get more people riding bikes.”
Drake said they could do a fantastic campaign to get people cycling, but the real challenge was to create opportunity, and for them to continue riding. He said the London Freewheel was fantastic because it got people out for that day. But he added the rides need underpinning by regular cycling activities.
This is where the “Ride Leaders” come into it. The Ride Leaders concept announced by Sky-British Cycling recently, aims to recruit 300 experienced cyclists to lead rides in the lead up and after the big events.
To this end, Drake said there would be a regular programme of Sunday rides, before and after the big events, to offer people continuity.
As Drake explained; “One of the worries is, people turn up on the day, have an absolute brilliant day, have a great day out, and then think, well, where next?
“What you’ve got to do is have those regular rides. What we’re hoping, is from that, some will ride regularly with their families but some will think about joining a local club and think about taking part in the sport.”
“The key thing is you have a really good experience, after getting the bike out of the shed. We’re hoping they will take part in one of this Skyride events and keep cycling.”
At each of these events British Cycling will set out their stall, offering membership benefits and contacts for local clubs.
We will have our key ambassadors at the events, Chris or Vicky for instance, to link that elite success to the everyday person riding a bike. To inspire people. They can have a day on the bike and see some of the stars from our Olympic programme and our Paralympics programme, that’s great.”
Asked what’s in this for Sky? Drake said. “The key thing for Sky is they genuinely want to make a difference in the community, by raising levels of physical activity.
“It is a genuine partnership with British Cycling. It’s not just about putting the logo on. They could have easily have done that, but they wanted to be much broader than that. So for Sky it is about really making a difference and the aspiration to get one million more people cycling by 2013, that’s how Sky will measure their success.
“I think what will actually come with that is more and more coverage of all sorts of cycling. Already in the last 12 months Sky have been carrying more stories, more news, generating more concepts.
“Sky are in one in three households, so their ability to promote and campaign is second to none. And I think that Sky really does genuinely want to look back at this in four or five years time and also they have made a difference to people’s lives. “|From BC’s perspective it is a brilliant opportunity to grow the sport. The key thing for us it’s all about making the sport bigger, better and stronger.”
Sky launches first step in cycling program