Firstly, what a spectacular weekend. I make no secret of it, I’m a huge fan of cycling.
When I was a teenager, often when my friends were out discovering alcohol, I’d be up in the Peak District on my 1992 Raleigh Scorpio conquering Snake and Winnat’s pass. That love affair has never gone away…
Ride London has to be the highlight of the year. The Tour de France is great, there are lots of brilliant events throughout the season, but having our great capital city devoted to cycling is outstanding.
For a change, I wasn’t riding the Surrey 100 today, I was out watching and cheering, and took the opportunity yesterday to head to London and catch the end of the ‘Freecycle’ and the women’s ‘Classique’.
But: There are those who think it’s a terrible idea and an impertinence of the highest order. So what are the benefits of Ride London? Why should we allow it? And indeed, what are the drawbacks?
Let’s start with the bad…
- Distance – there’s no doubt about it, unlike other events, the cycling events do require more road to be closed. Which is an unavoidable result of the nature of the machine. So there are more miles of closed road. There’s no denying it’ll be a day or so of quiet work for Uber and other private transport. But London has a wonderful public transport network.
- Cost – There’s an argument that it costs a lot of money to stage, which it may do, but other than that, I’m struggling to find any more badness! So let’s have a look at the good…
- Revenue – the organisers (Prudential Ride London) spend 5.7m on the event. Riders come from all over the country with their families, along with the pro teams and their supporters. All in, the estimated revenue is around £16m
- PR / Advertising – independent assessor have also worked out the equivalent benefit from exposure on TV, publicity worldwide, etc. They assess it at around £13m.
- Business – Smart local businesses benefit hugely – pubs, bars, shops in the areas around the race benefit from riders and their supporters spending money. The really sharp operators set up stalls in the street selling food and drink etc to riders and spectators.
- Business (2) – Cycling generally is good for business. People who cycle are fitter, more energetic, and as we all know, cycling is the new (better) golf!
- Health – we’re told the country’s in the grips of an obesity crisis. People have high blood pressure, heart disease, etc. The freecycle gives access to people who wouldn’t normally go near the road. The 100 is a great example of open access cycling – like the marathon, people of all shapes and sizes join in. 100,000 people get a chance to ride in London.
- Pollution – annoyingly I can’t find the stats, but I’m 90% certain I read somewhere that pollution in London drops significantly when there’s an event like the marathon or ride London on in town.
- Socialising – there are 100,000 people out during ride London, and everyone, from the penny farthing rider to the MAMIL (Middle Aged Man in Lycra) to the police outriders seem more sociable than ever.
- Equality – the event encourages all genders and ages, and particularly women to get involved – the women’s race is a great opportunity for the leading lights of our women’s talent, and the Surrey 100 sees many women riding alongside men which is something cycling needs more of.
- Charity – The majority of the places on the 100 are for charity, like the marathon, millions are raised for good causes – £46m in the past few years.
Finally, take a look at that photo above – small children riding happily through the city of London. I defy anyone to deny that joyful scene to future children. What a brilliant example of the wonderful opportunity provided by this weekend of fun and relaxation.
At school I was told by the P.E. teachers I ‘wasn’t sporty’ – that was nonsense of course. And I’ve never been as fit as I am now. Cycling gives me energy, de-stresses me and is an excellent business tool for networking and meeting new people with a common interest. I reckon Ride London has contributed at least £100m to the economy since it was first run – what’s not to like?!