A number of weeks ago I began writing an article on the popularity and rapid growth of cycling worldwide. Then the Lance saga struck.
These revelations threw a spanner into the idea behind my story that cycling popularity, both recreational and competitive, is on an ever upward curve.
So the question now is, post Lance’s dramatic demise, will cycling continue to grow or will the revelations of widespread drug use damage the image and potential of the fastest growing sport in the world?
Cycling over the past 10 years has undergone a renaissance across the world. The increasing use of bicycles for commuting, recreation and fitness is a result of rising fuel prices, worsening traffic congestion, crowded, unreliable public transport, greater health awareness and growing concern over global warming.
In the English speaking world in recent years, British, Australian and American winners of the Tour de France have helped catapult cycling into what some are calling a ‘Golden Age’.
Bicycling is growing fastest in large cities; New York has seen an increase of 289%, Portland, 219%, a 104% growth in Philadelphia, Sydney has experienced an 82% increase in the number of cyclists over just the past two years and London a 110% increase since 2000.
A third of the US and UK populations cycle – half own a bike.
The number of Americans who ride bicycles is greater than all those who ski, golf, and play tennis combined. Bicycling is the most popular outdoor activity for American youth and the second most popular outdoor activity in America by frequency of participation.
In the last 10 years, 11 million bikes have been sold in Australia – that is 2 million more than the number of cars sold in the same period.
Popular culture is also catching on.
Hollywood films like Premium Rush, about bike couriers in New York, BBC documentaries like On Hannibal’s Trail, a historical travelogue on bikes, and regular popular bike festivals worldwide all demonstrate the accepted place of cycling not just as a sport but as a rapidly growing recreation and culture in its own right.
So, will the damning revelations of state of cycling at the highest levels affect the people’s view on all levels – competitive and recreational – or is this drama viewed as irrelevant to the cycling world most of us occupy?