CyclingEdinburgh in The Scotsman
Posted by chdot on August 26, 2008
CyclingEdinburgh was asked to comment on cycling provision in relation to the recent success of Chris Hoy.
It’s in today’s paper – on-line (if you have a Premium account).
and here –
Every summer, for a couple of weeks, streets and courts are awash with ‘Wimbledon effect’ racketeers. There are plenty of tennis courts in private clubs and public parks. Swimmers wanting to emulate Rebecca Adlington are reasonably well catered for. But what about the provision for cyclists?
Chris Hoy’s fine Olympic performances are due to an alignment of talent, dedication, supportive (but not pushy) parents and a variety of back-up people and facilities.
Previous Olympic medal winner Chris Boardman’s “Secret Squirrel Club” has been developing the winning bicycle technologies. Not a cheap process.
The other key factor in Team GB’s cycling success has been the Velodrome – in Manchester. It was opened in 1994 and resurfaced in 2007 – seven years sooner than expected, due to intensive use.
It isn’t just for elite riders; as the venue’s web site says: “we provide 1 hour track sessions for beginners with all equipment included at reduced rates for school, college and university student groups”. It’s not just cycling – “facilities include fully sprung sports courts For basketball, netball and badminton”.
By contrast Edinburgh’s velodrome at Meadowbank was built for the 1970 Commonwealth Games and resurfaced in time for the 1986 Games. Some 22 years later the track is suffering not so much from use as neglect – and the inevitable results of being permanently open to the elements.
The Edinburgh track is well used – as can be seen in the YouTube video produced by Edinburgh Racers (the Saturday morning club for 8 to 16 year olds) as part of the campaign to save the velodrome.
Hoy recorded an endorsement before flying off to Beijing. The Racers run from April to September. That could double with a fully-enclosed track (like the Manchester one), with no cancellations when it rains.
It’s well-documented that City of Edinburgh Council’s plans for a new velodrome evaporated when Glasgow was awarded the 2014 Commonwealth Games. In short, the money went west. It can’t be confirmed if any tears were shed around the City Chambers.
Even now, after a few medals for riders who began track riding at Meadowbank and positive noises from First Minister Alex Salmond, there are no certainties other than an open topped parade in Hoy’s honour organised by the city council. He is too polite to make a point by boycotting it.
The Council is still talking of a new “cycling facility”. No details, no certain site, no dates – not even promises of continuity. There is a real possibility that Meadowbank will be demolished before the Chris Hoy stadium is completed in Glasgow with no (smaller) Edinburgh replacement built.
Cycling isn’t just a sport – elite or otherwise. Nor is it merely a leisure active, though Mountain Biking is serious business in Scotland. Forestry Commission Scotland has made Glentress (and the other MTB trails that make up the 7Stanes) the envy of the world.
Cycling is primarily transport. It’s an activity open to all ages – without needing a licence or much in the way of specialist equipment. Bikes are cheap (unless you are an Olympic wannabe when £10k might be the price tag!)
The UK and Scottish Governments want more people to cycle – for a range of reasons: “carbon reduction”, congestion reduction, health and even tourism. In spending terms it’s generally transport budgets (national and local) that are expected to deliver.
Governments need to get to grips with the fact that if they really want more people to cycle, not only do they have to shift the balance in transport budgets they also have to use health and education money.
It would help if cycle training was on the curriculum. Sciennes Primary, Edinburgh’s longstanding example of “best practice” manages to train almost all its P6 pupils each year. That’s ninety children – in school time.
Hoy has raised the profile of cycling. It’s important that it’s not seen as a two week wonder or an elite activity.