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 [www.transformscotland.org.uk] 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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