Happy 100th Bike Week!

Cycling UK’s annual event dedicated to cycling celebrates its centenary this year. Rebecca Armstrong takes a look at the history of Bike Week

Bike Week 2023 launches today. Following on from World Bicycle Day, which was on Saturday, this annual event particularly highlights cycling for transportation. These days, Bike Weeks take place in several countries around the world, but the first ever one was in London’s Hyde Park, organised by CTC – Cycling UK as was. This was in 1923, so this year Bike Week turns 100!

That inaugural ride happened at a time when the car was moving from being the preserve of the eccentric rich to the transportation mode of choice for many. The idea was to bring attention back to cycling as transport. That move has continued inexorably on as the car has come to dominate our road space. Today Bike Week is more important than ever.

This annual celebration of cycling is the only awareness-raising week for cycling in the UK, and Cycling UK’s message reaches millions of people around the country. The idea is to show people that riding a bike can easily be part of everyday life – every year Cycling UK’s aim is to get an extra 250,000 people who don’t normally ride to try it out.

Over the past century, thousands of Bike Week events have taken place, encouraging many hundreds of thousands of people to take to their bikes. Celebrities such as Olympic gold medallist James Cracknell, TV presenter and journalist Jeremy Vine, fashion designer Wayne Hemingway and Cycling UK’s own president Jon Snow have all taken part.

Ride to work

This year’s theme is workplace cycling – we want to encourage as many employers as possible to encourage staff to ride to work this week (5-11 June).

There are many benefits to riding to work, both for staff and employers. Cycling is a great way to increase fitness and healthier employees are happier, more productive and less likely to take time off sick. As such, promoting Bike Week can be a great way to engage with staff and show them that you care about their wellbeing.

Employees value working for companies that offer health-related perks, including cycle to work schemes. A commitment to cycle commuting reflects well on you as a forward-thinking business. Employees can also save money on the cost of commuting.

Then there’s the huge environmental benefits. In 2020, the most recent year for which statistics are available, the transport sector was responsible for almost a quarter (24%) of the UK’s carbon emissions. Commuting activities accounted for almost all (98%) of an individual’s own carbon emissions related to work.

In the same year, most adults in work travelled to their workplaces by car: 45.1%. Just 2% cycled. And yet a majority of adults in work live a cycleable distance from home: 35.4% have a journey of fewer than 10km. In fact, most of these live fewer than 5km from work. (These figures are for England and Wales.)

Breaking down barriers

Despite this, many people don’t cycle to work due to perceived barriers. This is where this year’s Bike Week comes in – cycling with others often helps give people the confidence boost they need to get on a bike. As well as encouraging workplaces to support staff to cycle to work, Cycling UK is offering free advice on how to organise a workplace event, promotional materials and event insurance for workplace rides. Just make sure you register your event with us.

We’ve also worked with partners to give cyclists some great offers for this week only. These include a week’s free cycle insurance from Yellow Jersey and discounts on well-known brands such as Halfords, Stolen Goat, Raleigh and more.

As a further incentive, we’ve also set up some 100-themed active challenges. Can you burn 100 calories on your bike in the week? Or maybe you’ll aim to save £100 by commuting by bike. Or you could cycle 100 miles – either individually or as part of a group. Use the hashtag #BikeWeek100 to share your challenges on social media.

We’ve got all the advice you need to organise a group ride at your workplace, and help your staff and colleagues benefit from cycling right now. If you need some more inspiration, check out the short video below from British Pathé of that first ever Bike Week!