The war is over, writes James Smith
Yes, there are pockets of resistance, even territories that are yet to succumb, but the ink is drying on the document of surrender. Of course, I should not make light of the continuing struggles of commuters, racers, and leisure riders, not to mention women and people of colour on bikes and the extra pressures they have.
You are asking yourself, why do I think the cycle vs car war is all but won? Let’s look at some of the facts. The pandemic was of course a turning point, or may have just been a rocket boost; we all saw the incredible growth of cycling across the globe, in fact, we are still trying to ramp up and supply the customers. Before the pandemic, the Government, the lobbyists and many more viewed cycling as a solution to many problems but it was some way off. Now, the pedal is being pushed hard and we are on the cusp of a permanent golden age of cycling.
In 2020, according to the Guardian, Halfords saw a 57% increase in cycling-related sales. This was replicated across the industry and the world, with suppliers increasingly struggling to keep up with demand. It’s not just the consumer that has driven this growth, the European Cycling Federation has tracked over 2,300 km of infrastructure with more than 1,000 km already built, and more than €1 billion of funding across Europe.
The UK Government has also been sending in the “virtual reinforcements” too with the cycling repair voucher scheme, the Cycle to Work vouchers and local funding budgets. In my local area Plymouth, the council has funded local companies to install showers, purchase electric bikes and even send around instructors to offer commuting advice.
It appears then that the penny has finally dropped, cycling is the solution to many of our ills, from the obesity crisis, gridlock and the environment. So the time has come for the victors to enjoy the spoils? Nope, the time has come to keep pushing and converting your friends, your workmates and many more to cycling. You might still get harassed, suffer a close pass or have to deal with ignorant drivers; the answer is to wave, smile and quietly reflect on how many more people are on bikes every day.
James Smith is the founder of sports consulting agency James Smith Group