The National Trust and Visit Guildford are encouraging businesses to see the long-term benefits of cycling events, following frustrations aired on Wednesday’s radio debate on the future of cycling in Surrey.

In Scotland a recent report [] shows cycle tourism contributes somewhere between £117m and £239m to the economy through leisure cycle events, spending by cyclists, cycle infrastructure and health benefits.

However, during the debate a Surrey petitioner and councillor said local businesspeople lost up to 90% of business due to Ride London 100 road closures.

As part of Surrey’s cycling strategy and consultation the council is talking to local businesses about the impact of cycling events. A proper economic impact assessment, as suggested by British Cycling’s Jonny Clay on Wednesday, would help accurately represent the effects of cycling on Surrey’s businesses, especially longer-term.

The question is, is there more businesses can do to help themselves?

Diana Roberts, Tourism Manager for Visit Guildford, talks about the bigger picture for tourism. She told Cycling Weekly today: “We had the Tour of Britain through the High Street and though some businesses suffered on the day many of them realised that is has long term benefits promoting the town.

Is cycling really bad for business?

We got on the TV, we can’t afford that [coverage], and the commentator said ‘Guildford’s cobbled High Street’ about 30 times!”

She said: “If you are out in the countryside and you are a B&B or pub there is a lot you can do, such as having bike racks, drying rooms and places for muddy boots and a lot of them are doing that already because cycling and walking were here before the Olympics.”

Roberts added: “The debate the other night showed [cycling] will always be marmite, with some that embrace it and make it benefit their business, and others that don’t. You aren’t going to convert everybody but some will be converted if there is some sort of kick back later from people coming back. I don’t think [an economic assessment] will calm all tensions but I think it will help provide evidence of why decisions are made.”

As Helyn Clack of Surrey County Council pointed out during Wednesday’s debate: “We are promoting this one day a year race but we are aware of the problems that it is causing in the community and the point of cycling strategy and consultation is to find out where we could do better.”

David Preedy, of Headley Parish council, said at Wednesday’s meeting: “Typically the feedback we were getting was that businesses were down between 50-80%.” He added a local golf club had to close because the route went through the middle of it, losing £2,500, on top of a £10,000 wedding, cancelled because guests couldn’t get there by car.

Ian Huggins, the petitioner behind “stop Surrey being turned into a race track”, said: “In rural areas it depends on where you are. Everybody I have spoken to along the route lost 40-90% of takings during Ride London.”

The National Trust’s Jerry Silverstone said during Wednesday’s debate the Trust accepts losses during road closures, including at its Box Hill cafe, as the events are good for the area long-term. He said he was stopped in Provence recently wearing a local cycling jersey by a Box Hill fan.

He said: “Box Hill is known throughout the world, not just in Britain and Surrey, and that is more powerful advertising than you can buy.”

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  • Mark Jones

    I agree with Samuel and if these businesses don’t have the common sense to capitalize on these huge crowds then they don’t deserve to be in business. If a golf course is closed for one day then the members will return the next week or mid-week to compensate for their lost round of golf and if the golf course is close to a village then perhaps they should have put an offer. As for the wedding well they knew the race was on months in advance and if it was booked before the RideLondon was thought of then that’s unfortunate but they can’t use the same excuse again next year. These same or similar businesses moan about local fairs and farmer’s markets that bring people in to their towns and villages, so if it wasn’t cycling then it’d be something else.

  • Michael Hogan

    Having grown up in the Guildford area I am concerned about the road closures as I know some of the Surrey public love to moan. Never happy. Its ONE day, just one day and its a Sunday. I am not religious, but come on business on a Sunday. Day of rest? I cycled RideLondon and loved it. The public were amazing. The public were the best thing that day. Surely far more people support thes events than are against them.

  • Samuel Gee

    In general I think the businesses that say they lose out are the ones run by unimaginative people. Crikey I cycled out to the top of Leith hill to cheer on the Ride 100 and the Classic that followed it. There were hundreds of people up there. I rode back along part of the route and there were people some cyclists and some non-cycling spectators all making their way home. The total crowds must have been tens of thousands in the Surrey Hills alone. All these people had money in their pockets it was a nice sunny day and they were out for the day enjoying themselves. And yet…. some people supposed “business people” given months and months of notice about a large enthusiastic spectator attendance still can’t figure out how to make money out of that.

    And there’s more than a bit of licence with the truth being taken by some of the complainers. I was at the debate in Guildford and one of the local councillors mentioned Tillingbourne Trout Farm in Abinger Hammer that day as being cut off and losing money. This place is on my commute and I know for a fact that they do BBQs and Parties on their grounds as part of their normal business. I just checked it’s even on their website. There were loads of people in Abinger Hammer that day. I bet a loads of them would have enjoyed a BBQ and a drink. So if they just shut down then that is their lookout. Maybe the trout farm did something like that and the councillor was just wrong, but hey if you own a venue that does catering on the route in a place that the race comes through twice and there are hundreds if not thousands of people about on a sunny day and you don’t make money out of it then there is no helping you.

    You can take a horse to water………