With the shortest day of the year falling on Thursday, next summer seems a long, long way away, but it promises to be a cracking one for Britain’s cyclists and not just because of the London Olympics; nearly two dozen cycling organisations have joined forces to launch a Summer of Cycling for 2012 and beyond, which promises to be “a celebration of every facet of cycling, from the velodrome to the cycle path to the bike shop.”
The initiative was born in a meeting at the House of Commons in November hosted by the cross-party All Parliamentary Cycling Group, which wanted to “bang heads together – gently” to encourage a campaign to promote cycling during the Olympic year.
Rather than that meeting being characterised by disagreements and rifts as these things often are, instead there was reportedly much head nodding in agreement with wanting to get the wheels in motion, with participants eager to help get the idea off the ground.
Getting behind the initiative are a wide range of businesses and organisations present at that meeting, ranging from retailer Halfords to folding bike brand Brompton.
Also in attendance were representatives from the likes of British Cycling, CTC, Sustrans, the London Cycling Campaign, Cycling Scotland, the Bicycle Association, Bike Week, Transport for London, the Association of Cycle Traders, the Tour of Britain, Cyclenation, and the Cycle to Work Alliance.
As to exactly what shape the initiative will take, well, that’s still being planned, but those involved highlight the point that it’s more of an umbrella under which cycling events and initiatives can be grouped, rather than trying to squeeze everything into a straightjacket.
Dr Julian Huppert, MP for Cambridge and co-chair of the All Parliamentary Cycling Group, said: "There needs to be a better cross over between all the cycling groups. We need to bring all the interests together. In 2012, we need cycling to say the same thing at the same time. Events could be linked together to flow from one event to another."
The idea is that by creating links between various events and initiatives, cycling itself “becomes bigger, stronger.” According to Dr Huppert, potential benefits include a higher profile for cycling both within government – an essential point in England at least since the abolition of Cycling England – as well as in the mainstream media, particularly during the Olympic year in which he says cycling will be "top of mind." said Huppert.
Phillip Darnton, former chairman of Cycling England and now vice president of the Bicycle Association, commented: "2012 ought to be year we sell more bikes than ever before. It ought to be the year more kids get cycle trained than ever before. More children should be cycling to school than ever before. And after the Olympics, more people than ever before should be lining the roads to watch the Tour of Britain."
While finer details are still being worked upon, part of the beauty of the scheme is said to be the fact that local campaigners are equally as able as national organisations to participate in the initiative.
All that’s needed is a willingness to get involved, and to ensure that events are submitted to a central database so that they can be co-ordinated and published on the Summer of Cycling website, which has gone live today.
The logo has been designed by Peter Thompson of Peloton Design who also produced the graphics for the Tour of Britain, and while the website has little content at the moment – you can, however, sign up for email updates – plenty will be added in the weeks and months ahead.
The intiative is aimed to be as inclusive as possible, and isn’t restricted to the 23 organisations and businesses that have launched it – anyone involved in cycling at whatever level, ranging from national bodies right down to individuals, is encouraged to take part.
The concept of ‘summer’ that has been adopted, certainly when viewed against the vagaries of the British climate, is the widest possible, running from March to October, with the first event being Sustrans' Big Pedal, supported by Bike Hub, which aims to get schoolkids in 1,000 schools pedalling an aggregate of 1 million miles.
It’s not just organisations and businesses that can help make the Summer of Cycling a success, either; individuals also have a role to play. What is described as “the idea that most galvanised the meeting” is the +1 concept – if you’re doing something on a bike, whether that be commuting to work, a track session at the local velodrome, riding a sportive or whatever, you’re encouraged to take someone along.
Born in Scotland, Simon moved to London aged seven and now lives in the Oxfordshire Cotswolds with his miniature schnauzer, Elodie. He fell in love with cycling one Saturday morning in 1994 while living in Italy when Milan-San Remo went past his front door. A daily cycle commuter in London back before riding to work started to boom, he's been news editor at road.cc since 2009. Handily for work, he speaks French and Italian. He doesn't get to ride his Colnago as often as he'd like, and freely admits he's much more adept at cooking than fettling with bikes.