A BILLION POUND INDUSTRY CLOSE TO COLLAPSE
It’s time to think bike this Easter – the alternative solution to the Foot and Mouth Crisis
While the whole cycling community recognises the dire predicament of the farming community, it is vital that other affected groups are not forgotten. Cycling leaders today expressed alarm that there is currently a lack of response to the needs of the cycling community by government and other agencies. This will severely damage the industry and destroy recent progress made towards key government targets. Despite letters to the Prime Minister and submissions to the rural task force, they feel their voice is not being heard.
They have called on tourism agencies, the media and the public to “think bike” this Easter as an easy alternative to other activities that may be restricted.
In a joint statement CTC (Cyclists’ Touring Club) – the national cyclists’ organisation, the Association of Cycle Traders, the Bicycle Association (manufacturers), and Sustrans, builders of the National Cycle Network said:
“The threat of FMD is so frightening that many parts of the country have understandably overreacted. We must move on from this position, and have an area by area response or many people’s livelihoods will be unnecessarily destroyed. This is particularly true for the cycling community (shops, hire and tourism) where sales are drastically down as we approach the absolutely key Easter period – traditionally the time when cyclists go out to enjoy the spring weather.
Cycling is supported by welcome national strategies, which promote the trebling of cycle use in the UK by 2010, these strategies are currently not being backed. With the media’s fixation on horror images, the disaster taking place in the cycling industry is just not a good media story. The relevant government bodies must hear our cry for help, or the hard work by the government, the industry and cycling organisations will be undone – and take years to re-build.
There are 100,000 miles of country lanes in the UK that are open and have remained open since the first outbreak. Guidelines for cycling in the countryside were negotiated by CTC with MAFF very early in the crisis. Those cyclists who have been enjoying the lanes over the past two weeks say the riding is exceptional, particularly because of the reduced number of cars. Sections of the National Cycle Network are open, and the number of locations where mountain biking can take place again is growing rapidly. The beauty of cycling is that it is on your doorstep, you can enjoy rural areas without travelling long distances by car. For city dwellers, a couple of stops down the rail line takes most of us easily into great cycling country.
We have supported the work of MAFF and other agencies throughout this crisis, compiling guidelines and encouraging cyclists out on to the minor road network and away from risk areas.
Cycling is unique amongst countryside pursuits in that it does not need access to off road facilities and rights of way, the vast majority of the UK has great riding now”.
There are a huge number of cycling activities happening this Easter. We urge all the frustrated walkers, boaters, climbers, anglers and other countryside users to “think bike”. Get out and enjoy the countryside in a fun and responsible manner this Easter.
The ACT (Association of Cycle Traders) is offering any member of the public a free 30-point safety Dr Bike check of the health of the bicycle at any participating member’s shop. Check the ACT’s website www.cyclesource.co.uk for further information or ask at your local ACT dealer.
Sustrans’ website now contains a region by region breakdown of the status of most traffic-free sections of the 6,000 mile National Cycle Network, visit www.sustrans.org.uk or call 0117 929 0888 for more information.
CTC, the national cyclists’ organisation, has over 200 local rides planned, many of them suitable for novices. CTC Cyclists’ Helpline 01483 417217, website www.ctc.org.uk
CTC/Michelin Mountain Biking centres and trails at Seven Sisters Country Park (E. Sussex), Queen Elizabeth Country Park, Petersfield (Hampshire) Pitsford Water (Northants) Sherwood Pines (Notts), Thetford Forest (Norfolk), Grafham Water (Cambridgeshire), Coed-y-Brenin (North West Wales) are open.
CTC has released its previously member only handbook for public sale at £4.99 with hundreds of cycle friendly cafes, B&Bs, and bike shops, not to mention a full calendar of rides and contacts for local cycling in your area. They also have a new Cycle Hire Directory available for £2.50 and are giving 10% off cycle touring equipment this spring to all callers.
Country Lanes, the award-winning bicycle touring specialist is encouraging people to leave the walking boots behind and explore the countryside by bicycle this Easter. When the foot and mouth outbreak began it was quick to update all its cycle routes to avoid farms with livestock and off-road sections. The company operates a nationwide programme of cycling day trips, short breaks and longer tours from four centres in the New Forest, Cotswolds and Lake District. Telephone 01425 655022 or visit www.countrylanes.co.uk
Notes to Editors
• There are six million adult cyclists in the UK and an estimated 22 million bikes
• MAFF agrees that road cycling will not add to the risk of spreading FMD and publicised this within the cycling community.
• There are 100,000 miles of rural minor roads in the UK, and a further 100,000 miles of suburban route. A tiny proportion of these, across unfenced grazing land in Devon and Cumbria are restricted due to FMD. Nearly all of the on-road sections of the National Cycle Network, the entire National Byway and most county cycle routes drawn up by local authorities are open.
• The Government’s Ten Year Transport Plan, is to treble the number of journeys made by bike by 2010 (based on 2000 figures).
• The UK cycle sales and accessories market is estimated to be worth £500 million. It employs 20,000 people, the vast majority of them in up to 4,000 small businesses. The cycle tourism industry is estimated to be worth around £650 million per annum, (and growing rapidly) with single locations such as Coed y Brenin Mountain Bike centre bringing in over £3 million to the local economy.