Pressing for change in a golden age of cycling
Something extraordinary happened during the coronavirus lockdown.
While we all hid inside, protecting ourselves from a virus we still don’t fully understand, a change was taking place across the country.
People began dusting off their bikes, pumping up tyres and oiling chains. Families, key workers and people desperate to make use of their daily exercise allowance started cycling in their tens of thousands.
But what was even more curious was the way the mainstream media started talking about cycling. Positive stories started popping up in the most unlikely publications.
“Bike shops are running out of stock as stores struggle to meet demand in lockdown sales boom,” a headline in the Daily Mail screamed.
Even the Daily Star went with: “NHS to start ‘prescribing cycling’ to help Brits get more active active after lockdown.”
It’s been an amazing opportunity to talk about cycling to the wider public and influence a narrative that hasn’t always been in our favour
In the communications department, we were inundated with calls and emails from journalists looking for quotes, background information or guests for TV and radio programmes.
We’ve never been so busy. It’s been an amazing opportunity to talk about cycling to the wider public and influence a narrative that hasn’t always been in our favour.
Placing stories in the press and commenting on cycling related issues is one of our key strategies for bringing about change in the UK, alongside our lobbying activities.
Many journalists come to us because they understand we’re the voice of cycling.
But that’s only true because you, our members, give us that voice. And the larger our membership base, the more powerful that voice becomes.
My communications team consists of a number of specialists, including former journalists who understand how the media works. They’re constantly cultivating relationships with reporters, making sure your voice is heard, and they can do it because your memberships funds them.
But dealing with journalists is only a small part of the team’s role within the charity.
It’s the communications team that keeps you briefed on all our latest news and developments, producing the weekly CycleClips newsletter every member receives.
In the future, under proposals being put forward at this year’s AGM, we’re looking at how we can improve that service even further, by tailoring the type of stories you receive based on your interests.
Then there’s Cycle magazine, the most read cycling magazine in the country, which you told us you love. And with good reason.
We have one of the top cycling magazine editors in the country behind it, dedicated to bringing you independent reviews, great rides, kit, tests, charity news and articles from some of the best cycling writers in the industry.
Again, that’s only possible because Cycle is funded by your membership fees.
In recent years, social media has taken its place as one of the most influential ways of reaching audiences which is why we have a strong presence across a number of platforms, most notably Twitter, Facebook, Instagram, Strava, YouTube and LinkedIn.
It’s a great way of spreading our message, reaching new audiences of cyclists, and an effective means of interacting directly with members.
But those posts and tweets don’t write themselves. Our digital and social media officer looks after all our content, responding to your requests, bringing you the latest news and information and always looking for creative new ways to communicate.
That’s how she’s managed to grow our following across all platforms by 22% this year alone.
Plus, we have one of the most comprehensive websites for cyclists anywhere in the UK. Whether you’re looking for a video on teaching an adult how to ride a bike, seeking out information about our latest campaign, desperate to find out how the coronavirus rules apply to riding in groups or looking for an inspiring route or ride, it’s all at your fingertips at cyclinguk.org
Our webpages are updated daily with the latest news and information, serving all kinds of cyclists with different levels of experience, and all funded by our members.
If that wasn’t enough, we’ve even set up a Cycling UK video unit with two in house video producers creating film content to support all areas of the charity.
Whether it’s promoting the Great North Trail, Bike Week, the Women’s Festival of Cycling, and the Big Bike Revival or raising awareness of the Dutch Reach and providing tips and advice on road positioning and basic mechanics, it’s all available to you on our YouTube channel.
As a former ITV News journalist, I strongly believe in the power of film to communicate our message, amplify our voice and reach a much wider cross section of people, but we can only do that because your membership fees fund these roles.
It’s an incredibly exciting time for cycling. More people than ever are out on their bikes and it’s a real privilege to be able to say we’ve played a part in changing the cycling landscape.
We’re on the front lines shouting about the pure joy, brilliance and benefits of cycling, but we know we can do so much more.
This month we’ve launched our Pumped Up campaign to inspire even more people to discover cycling.
And with your continued support we will keep doing more, to make a bigger noise, to challenge attitudes and opinions, to shape policy and ultimately to make cycling the popular, widespread and every day activity that we all want to see.