British Cycling are aiming to break the 70,000 membership mark with a campaign to get more people cycling to work by highlighting the health, wealth and happiness benefits of commuting by bike.
The federation’s fourth campaign to recruit more commuters is timed to coincide with the arrival of British Summer Time and a period when people are “reconsidering what their routines are and how they get to work”, Gavin Finch, BC’s head of marketing, told BikeRadaryesterday.
He said: “Cycling has a number of health benefits, and the great thing about riding to work is that they’re squeezing that in around busy schedules if they’ve got families, etcetera.
“We’re [British Cycling] seeing a 50 percent growth year on year from a membership perspective, and a big part of that growth has been from non-competitive membership.”
According to the federation’s figures, about half their members commute by bike, although many undertake other types of cycling too. Forty percent of the organisation’s near 70,000 members hold a Ride licence – an insurance policy aimed specifically at commuters and sportive cyclists.
Finch said the federation – which used to focus heavily on cycle sport – now have a greater responsibility to represent cyclists and lobby for them on issues connected with safety, transport policy and insurance: “Those cyclists are slightly different to the core membership we would have had 10 or 20 years ago.
“That core membership [competitors] still exists but we’ve also now got a responsibility that extends beyond competition and into recreational cycling, whether that’s fitness, riding sportives or riding with your family or commuting.”
The changing profile of BC membership has been seen as a threat to other cycling representative bodies such as the CTC, the core role of which has been as a lobbying group for recreational riders. However, Finch said that, with an estimated 4m regular cyclists on UK roads, there is ample growth potential for all:
“With regards to taking members from other organisations I don’t think that’s really an issue. The pot is so huge and it’s the job of all those organisations to raise the profile of what they do, get more people on board and reach that point of critical mass and have influence at a central government level.”
Roger Geffen, Campaigns and Policy Director at CTC acknowledged that BC carrying out more work on behalf of non-competitive cyclists could potentially be a competitive threat to their organisation. However he said it wouldn't affect the united front they present to Government when lobbying on behalf of cyclists.
Last week, British Cycling welcomed £40m of government funding to improve cycle safety with 78 projects around the country. However, they said that cycling needs to be at the centre of all transport policy.
“Whenever there’s transport policy – certainly long-term transport policy – there needs to be some sustained planning and investment and consideration of cycling in any policy,” said Finch. “And until we see that we won’t see things changing to where they need to be.”
British Cycling enjoyed record numbers of new members during the 2012 Tour de France honeymoon, when they added 2,400 new members in July alone. For more information on their latest commuting drive see www.britishcycling.org.uk/commuting.