British Cycling's City Academies programme is the latest scheme to receive funding from the Rapha Foundation. We sent Rebecca Charlton along to the Lee Valley Velo Park to find out more.
Firstly, Rebecca spoke with British Cycling's Cycling Delivery Manager, Lauren Forrow, who highlighted some of the barriers that the scheme aims to remove. Lauren pointed out that "for some of these communities just having to cross a bridge into the local park is too much of a barrier for them to take part and that's without even considering things like the equipment that they need, the parental support to get there or any of the time or cost associated with it."
"For us," she continued, "this is about breaking down those barriers and increasing access so that cycling is a true reflection of society."
The idea of this pilot scheme is to create various City Hubs where British Cycling can deliver bike-based activities to children from local schools. Sport England has worked closely with British Cycling to identify communities within each local area where there is no traditional association with cycling. It is hoped that this will begin to change cycling into a sport and mode of transport that is more representative of everyone within those local communities.
The City Hubs will then eventually link up to form City Academies, creating a pathway into the various talent programmes within British Cycling.
Rebecca then spoke to Rapha's CEO, Simon Mottram who pointed to the Foundation's links to Rapha's business objectives of cycling as a sport being more inclusive and its need to grow. "It's fine to reach people like me who enjoy riding and are totally obsessed and enthusiastic, but we've got to make it more appealing and more relevant to more people, otherwise we'll just stay a niche sport."
The Rapha Foundation was set up in 2019 with a mission of "building a better future for cycling and cyclists" through supporting organisations such as the Dave Rayner Fund, Herne Hill Velodrome Trust, Black Girls Do Bike, to name a few.
Speaking on British Cycling's website, Brian Facer, British Cycling CEO, said: “The British Cycling City Academies project is a key part of our wider strategy to make cycling more inclusive, more diverse and more reflective of our society. Ensuring greater diversity is essential to the future of our sport and it is also the right thing to do from a societal perspective.”
“I’m very excited to be partnering with Rapha, through the Rapha Foundation, on this project. By making our pathways into participation and competition more accessible we will be enabling more talented cyclists and potential champions of the future to shine, regardless of their background.”
“We also believe that the City Academies can be real beacons within their communities, and that once the first cyclists start to come through into our development pathways it will soon create a virtuous circle and a positive legacy for the future.”
The City Hubs scheme has started with the boroughs of Hackney and Newham in London, but the aim is to take it far wider.