Ledbury leads the Come Cycling revolution
Cycling communities throughout Britain are being invited to join the national Come Cycling scheme by setting up their own website, linked into the Come Cycling home page. Come Cycling is a web-based cycle tourism initiative, launched in April 2011, which has been piloted in Ledbury, Herefordshire by the Ledbury Area Cycle Forum as 'Come Cycling Ledbury'.
The forum is now keen to see other places reaping the benefits. The following explains the initiative and what volunteers, who included Cycling UK members, did to bring it all together for the beautiful market town of Ledbury.
The Come Cycling initiative promotes:
- Local cycle route maps.
- Bike hire and cycle shops.
- Accommodation providers.
- Tourist attractions.
- Village and farm shops.
- Rural pubs and cafés.
- Public transport links.
What do you need?
- A team of people - CCL has 4 members.
- A range of cycle route maps.
- A cycle repair shop.
- Some cycle-friendly accommodation providers.
In addition, it would be good to have:
- Good public transport links, preferably with cycle carriage.
- Cycle hire.
A number of cycle route maps, sold through local shops, had already been published by members of the Ledbury Area Cycle Forum.
Bike hire and cycle shops
The strength of the Come Cycling scheme attracted a grant to fund a fleet of hire bikes for a new, privately-run cycle hire business next to the railway station. The cycle hire supplements an established farm holiday cottage business so has the benefit of easily-extended insurance cover and long operating hours.
The CCL website lists a number of cycle repair businesses including a mobile mechanic.
These were identified within a five mile radius of Ledbury from a range of sources (local magazines, websites, etc). They were contacted by email or phone and sent a mock-up of a website accommodation page to encourage them to pay for the £30 enhanced entry option. Some opted initially for free entry, but converted after the website was launched. Read more about this on our About Us page. This research was carried out by one team member over the winter.
Tourist attractions, village and farm shops, rural pubs and cafés were researched by another team member and cover the area served by the cycle route maps. Public transport links were also included.
It is simply not possible to please all of the people, all of the time, but CCL's webmaster feels that:
- A modern, clean, lightweight design should promote cycling as an everyday activity, not a lifestyle choice.
- Fast page load times are important. Not everyone has large screens and fast connections.
- A consistent look should unite all the communities joining Come Cycling, thus avoiding the visual mess that results if each community site has its own amateurish look, making navigation difficult.
In order to retain consistency between sites, CCL's own design may evolve to accommodate ideas from other groups as other communities link into the Come Cycling scheme.
See also 'Implement the website' below.
A grant funded the cost of printing hard-copy flyers (210mm x 99mm, colour photo montage on front face, brief outline of website content on reverse) promoting the website. These are distributed when we travel around the country, or are taken for distribution by visiting long-distance friends. They are also placed locally at cycle shops, accommodation providers and other tourist outlets. From time to time, press releases are sent to local and national publications. In the longer term, a national Come Cycling scheme should avoid the need to promote local sites individually.
Online map sales
One member receives and processes the orders. It is very straightforward: she transfers the link to another member if she is away for any time.
We receive about eight orders a month, though this is seasonal and weather dependent. We monitor costs to ensure that we cover the postage and PayPal fee.
The set-up costs of the scheme were covered by a grant (fleet of hire bikes, printing of publicity material, initial mail-shot, etc.). The ongoing costs of the scheme (purchase of domain name, etc.) are covered by the one-off 'Enhanced Entry' donation from accommodation providers. Map production has been grant-funded over a number of years and income from sales is used for reprints. Online sales prices are set high enough to cover distribution costs.
Tips for getting started + timetable
Ideally, identify the best time to start work on a new scheme by working back from the launch date. It should be possible to have a new scheme in operation within a six-month timeframe.
To be effective in its first season, the project must be fully operative at least one month before the holiday season starts at Easter. So if Easter Sunday lies on April 1, then the website should be in operation by March 1 latest. As there will almost certainly be some slippage, it's a good idea to set the launch date for January / early February.
Assuming that deadlines for the various components of the scheme are met, then the latest start date for discussing the potential project will be in the previous June or July. The Come Cycling Ledbury team is always available to offer advice.
First three months...
1. Form a group - invite interest by one or more of the following:
- Contact local Cycling UK Member Groups, Sustrans or similar groups and clubs.
- Use a local cycle shop as a focus.
- Write a letter to the local press.
2. Organise an inaugural meeting to discuss the concept.
3. Decide on roles of group members – ideally, all group members play an active part in the initiative. The tasks (which can be shared) include:
- Web design
- Cycle repair, hire, etc, services research
- Accommodation research
- Route map coordination / production
- Local facilities research including visitor attractions, country pubs, cafés and shops
- Transport options - particularly rail, but including any bus services which carry cycles
4. Decide on the scope of the scheme
In Ledbury, the mapping included pubs and cafés, while country shops were limited to a 10-mile radius, and accommodation to a five-mile radius. Accommodation in the town itself was included, but not the town centre pubs and shops.
5. Discuss with outside agencies and organisations including:
- Local authority tourism officer.
- Local authority cycling officer.
- Local tourism group.
- Landowning organisations such as the Forestry Commission, National Trust, Canal & River Trust.
- Statutory authorities such as National Parks or Areas of Outstanding Natural Beauty (AONBs).
- Local Sustrans staff or rangers.
Three - six months...
1. Identify funding sources
This may be from local authority cycling or tourism sections, health promotion bodies, National Parks / AONBs. Once the scheme is up and running, it should be self-funding, deriving income from map sales and enhanced tourism-provider website entries.
2. Identify suitable cycle routes
Local cycle maps or guidebooks may already be available, so contact the publishers to arrange supplies. Other attractive cycle routes can be identified and researched with maps produced and published. Ideally, these should have a theme, e.g. historical, or based on local countryside features, or visits to village churches of interest. In order to promote local facilities such as pubs, cafés and attractions, the routes should pass as many of these as possible.
If funding is a problem, then consider publishing in black and white or colour, and producing in A4 or A3 size as required on a photocopier.
If you are intending to sell through local Tourist Information Centres (TICs), cycle shops, bookshops or others, then you may decide to apply for an ISBN number, and include a barcode to assist with automated pricing.
3. Identify and contact accommodation providers, local attractions, pubs and cafés
This will be time-consuming as it involves trawling a wide variety of information sources, so this task is best divided between members of the group. The inclusion of basic information on the website should be free to the provider, but with an option for a chargeable enhancement of the entry.
4. Implement the website
As mentioned, a consistent style should be used by all the communities joining Come Cycling, so that each site looks similar and behaves in the same way.
The Come Cycling Ledbury layout templates and source code are free for other groups to share. A key feature is that all the data tables and Google Maps are generated automatically from Excel spreadsheets exported as plain text files, so there is no need to edit the website once it has been set up.
The Come Cycling Ledbury team is happy to work with new groups to improve or extend the templates as necessary to support new requirements; and would be pleased to discuss sharing our web hosting facilities (see below to contact CCL).
- We suggest you use Joker.com for your domain name registrations, as it’s cost effective and provides the required level of control.
- Remember to include key words in your home page metadata such as: your location; ‘cycle’; ‘cycle tourism’; ‘cycle maps’; ‘cycle routes’; and others in your sub-title to assist search engine identification.
- Register with PayPal to facilitate online payments. Further advice on this is available from the Ledbury team.
5. Identify cycle hire facilities
If there is no local facility, then look for businesses that are open 7 days a week which have secure storage and are conveniently located. Possibilities to consider are pubs, a fuel station or a taxi firm, but they will have to commit to extra public liability insurance, and some cycle maintenance training if their bike experience is limited.
6. Consider insurance
We considered taking out some form of public liability insurance but decided not to because of the low risk - BUT you need to make your own decision on this point.
7. Design and print a publicity leaflet
This should be in colour, on light card and one third A4 to fit in most leaflet racks.
Six months +
Hopefully, the website is ready to go live, and you are now in a position to launch your project:
- Prepare a press release.
- Contact the local press, radio and TV to arrange interviews and photos.
- Send the press release to cycle magazines, Cycling UK, Sustrans, outdoor magazines, and travel supplements of national newspapers.
- Email all the providers giving them the website address so that they can check that their details are correct.
- Also inform any funders and local authority tourism and cycling officers.
- Visit local cycle shops, TICs and attractions and provide them with copies of any maps you have produced. (The usual trade discount for books and maps is 34% off the retail price - they then make a 50% profit).
- Distribute publicity leaflets locally, and where possible regionally and nationally.
Do contact the Come Cycling Ledbury group for advice - and good luck with your own Come Cycling initiative!