BikeBiz Awards 2019 one year on: Cycling UK

The BikeBiz Awards, in association with Tannus Tyres, is returning for its 12th iteration this year in a digital format, as we all continue to navigate the uncertainty surrounding live events and COVID-19. But while the world has undoubtedly changed since 2019’s ceremony at The Cycle Show, it still remains more vital than ever to recognise and celebrate the hard work of professionals and companies within the cycling sector.

As we look ahead to 2020’s edition, BikeBiz caught up with last year’s winners to find out what they’ve been up to since. Today, we hear from Matt Mallinder, director of influence and engagement, Cycling UK, which won the Cycle Advocacy Award 2019.

How has 2020 been for Cycling UK? 
Much like for the rest of the cycle industry, it’s been a topsy turvy year and with an ever-changing landscape, we had to respond quickly, in extremis even to keep cycling off the list of banned activities. A lot of work went into reimagining our cycling season, so all credit to our staff and volunteers. While we have been able to change direction and the way we work once lockdown began, all our events were cancelled and our on-the-ground activities had to change.

As an organisation, we’ve suffered financially – and it’s been thanks to the generosity of our members and certain parts of the UK cycle industry that we’re still, relatively speaking, out there working to ensure the cycling voice is heard at a Governmental level.

But from day one of lockdown, Cycling UK was campaigning for cycling. From helping keep bike shops open, to temporary infrastructure, to ensuring that cycling is part of a daily exercise regime to providing the cycling community with the clear advice they need to keep riding safely and legally at this time, as a charity we’ve never been busier. It’s been a standing-start for us, but we’ve achieved a lot.

– We’ve repurposed our Big Bike Revival to assist key workers while fixing more than 10,000 bikes in England and Scotland
– We’ve doubled engagement in Bike Week and our Women’s Festival of Cycling – despite not being able to hold public events
– We’ve launched King Alfred’s Way, a new 350km off-road bike packing route, giving plenty of our members and others an excuse to give their gravel bikes a proper test

All the while working with Governments across the UK to invest in cycling, and ensuring our vision and that of the Walking and Cycling Alliance are realised in England through the Government’s £2 billion Gear Change strategy. As you can see – it’s been quite a year!

Do you think the “golden age of cycling” will continue into next year and beyond? What is needed to help ensure it does? 
I think that the genie is very much out of the bottle. Wherever we live we’re seeing many more people out on bikes, families and neighbours perhaps surprisingly taking to cycling. Within lockdown, our travel horizons became narrower, but the bike enabled us all to engage with nature and go beyond the confines of our home offices.

The immediate problem is how to keep people cycling throughout the next months, especially for those short journeys where normally the only other choice is either public transport or the car.  It’s inevitable that as we return to work and Indian summer retreats, many bikes will return to sheds. The important thing is that they get dragged out again next spring. There have been three to six months of people falling back in love with cycling, a golden age has to last much longer than that, and part of that battle will be creating lasting behaviour change.

It’s true to say that these cyclists, these new audiences, won’t have the same experience and confidence as the BikeBiz readers so are going to need that extra support, especially as the environment these new cyclists took to the roads through lockdown was semi-artificial with traffic light roads as people had limited need to travel with shops and workplaces closed. Therefore, safe and welcoming infrastructure is going to be key. People seem to think we can return to the way things were – that’s understandable – but unrealistic. We need a new normal, not the old one. This resistance to change is encapsulated in the bike lane backlash that is capturing the attention of regional, and some national, media outlets.

To read these papers, you’d think all the temporary infrastructure put in place to help us walk and cycle in safety while maintaining appropriate social distancing was heralding a new strain of the virus.   In reality, all they’re doing is amplifying a minority of schemes which have not worked as well as they did on paper and have been changed or removed. And so what? To expect every single scheme to be 100% perfect from the start is unrealistic – it’s important to try and trial: keep what works and back to the drawing board for what doesn’t.

Cycling UK wants to get behind and back these councils which are doing a good job – and would encourage industry and the community to do the same if we want the “golden age” to last beyond regional elections next year. Local councils have shown that they want to do the right thing, but they desperately need to hear from the wider public, not just those who don’t want these new cycling schemes. Please be part of that positive narrative that will really shore up councils resolve.

What did it mean to win a BikeBiz Award last year? 
It’s always great to receive recognition from the cycling community for the work we’ve always done as a charity. The work we and the many volunteers behind us do to achieve successful advocacy campaigns such as the Dutch Reach and Bike Week and Big Bike Revival programmes quite often happens in the background to the cycle trade. So these awards allow the work to be put under the spotlight and show how making cycling safer, and more importantly making people realise it is safe, is a big part getting more people cycling – which is what we all want at the end of the day.

This year has shown, if anything, that too often the UK cycling sector has taken the status quo for granted and catered to those who already cycle. With bike shops empty of stock due to a massively increased demand, the pandemic has shown what a huge potential there is for everyday cycling. It is in all our interests to keep this going both financially but societally – for our health and wellbeing, cleaner air and quieter safer streets.

These people new to cycling need that hand-holding and support from all of us to keep on riding – which is what Cycling UK has always specialised in.   And we can witness that having seen the boom this summer, the cycle industry is now beginning to lend their support to make this happen on a large scale, by backing our Pumped UP campaign and the #BikeisBest movement. That’s how change will happen – and the benefits will be for everyone, including profit margins.

The Awards is returning for its 12th iteration this year in a digital format, forgoing a live event to ensure those working tirelessly to keep the sector’s wheels turning can receive the recognition they deserve while ensuring the safety of all involved.

The winners will be revealed online on Friday 11th December. For sponsorship and promotion opportunities, please contact Richard Setters.

Tannus Tyres will act as the headline sponsor for this year’s BikeBiz Awards, and will also sponsor the Innovation from a Newcomer Award. Pure Electric is sponsoring the Cycle Advocacy Award for 2020.

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