By guest blogger Emily Buchanan
With the Tour de France set to depart from Yorkshire in July, there’s never been a better time to embrace bike culture in the UK. From a 100-day cultural festival in the North East to the second annual Edinburgh Festival of Cycling in Scotland, events are taking place throughout the summer to connect like-minded people with a love of cycling.
Laura Nicolson, owner of Velocity Bike Cafe in Inverness, is one such person. Following the surging popularity of push bikes in recent years, she opened Velocity to share the maintenance skills her dad taught her and to fully realize her passion for cycling. The result is a social enterprise where any and all profit goes to promoting cycling.
Laura says: “What Velocity is trying to do is to get more people confident when cycling. You have the place you’re leaving from and the place you’re trying to get to, but there’s this whole space in between that inspires me and anyone to get back on their bike and keep getting back on their bike. That what Velocity is all about.”
In a promotional video, she goes on to talk about the ethical associations of cycling – the need to promote a healthy and sustainable lifestyle that supports local communities. This dedication to local businesses seems to be ingrained in cycling culture and can be exemplified by Brompton.
Brompton is one of only two major independent frame manufacturers still based in the UK and the company currently makes 120 new bikes a day. “Private ownership has played a big part in making Brompton successful,” the website states. “We have always been able to focus solely on the bike, never the demands of corporate shareholders.” And it seems to be working. Sales are up 25%. What’s more, they too are committed to locally-sourced parts that reduce the carbon emissions of their operation. “The environmental impact of our operations has featured in our thinking since production began,” they say.
However, the growth of bike sales has not only benefited start-ups like Velocity and Brompton, but established businesses too. Demand from consumers has been so significant that Bikesure, a motorcycle insurance specialist established in 1973, has introduced a brand new bicycle insurance service. “With the volume of cyclists in the UK continuing to grow, so too have the volume of thefts,” writes Gerry Bucke from Bikesure. “As such, we recognised a market need for comprehensive bicycle insurance and responded accordingly.”
Indeed, Bikesure’s growth is in direct correlation with recent market figures that show that last year, bicycle sales were up 14 percent since 2008 – with that figure set to rise to 22 percent by 2018.
Inevitably, this means that bike usage has grown. In London alone it has more than doubled since 2004 and it’s a similar story in major cities the country over. Fortunately, this level of growth has encouraged the government to rethink the quality of their cycling infrastructure and at the moment, they’re considering new initiatives that separate motorists and cyclists in major cities, ensuring a safer commute.
It seems that cycling is a 21st century success story. Thanks to our growing need for environmental and economical modes of transport, more and more people are commuting by bike and discovering a diverse culture that is defined by a strong sense of community and a commitment to a sustainable, local lifestyle. Ride on!