The way ahead: Cycling UK’s new five-year strategy

A woman in a headscarf is cycling on a paved path on an e-bike
Promoting the power of e-bikes in Leicester
Cycling UK’s strategy for 2024-29 launched at a special event on 12 June. Brand, marketing and communications manager Sam Waller outlines what we’ll be doing to realise cycling’s extraordinary potential as a force for good

From improving our health and wellbeing to tackling climate change and creating more pleasant places to live and spend time, cycling delivers an extraordinary range of benefits.

As we launch Cycling UK’s new five-year strategy, we are focused on fully realising the vast potential of cycling to help people and society. A huge amount has changed in the external environment since our previous strategy started in early 2019.

We’re proud of the achievements you enabled us to secure during that time:

  • Winning vital improvements to the Highway Code
  • Helping hundreds of thousands of people to discover the joys of cycling
  • Creating iconic new routes to help people explore the UK’s stunning landscapes
  • Bringing you exciting new member benefits

We’re now ready to build on these achievements with a bold and ambitious plan – one that you helped to shape by sharing your views in our surveys and focus groups over the past year.

Among the themes from your feedback was the importance of our campaigning work – from making roads safer to securing more high-quality cycling infrastructure. Another common thread was the desire to see more people cycling, particularly the next generation, with all the benefits that brings.

Cycling can be a powerful force for good, a potent solution to some of the biggest problems our society faces. We now aim to fully harness this potential.

Many of you emphasised the value of our support for member and affiliate groups, plus the insurance cover and other member benefits you receive. As a charity we are powered by our members and supporters, so providing the best possible membership experience is a vital aspect of our new strategy.

A projection on the Titanic Museum in Belfast with the pro-cycling message "Invest in the future. Vote bike"
Sending politicians in Belfast a message

We know that there’s one thing that unites us all: we all love getting on our bikes and going out for a ride. It’s our goal to make the UK an even better and more positive place to cycle, no matter where or why you ride, or what type of cycle you use. We are in a unique position to deliver on this mission thanks to you – representing our members for the past 145 years has given us the expertise and mandate to make this change possible.

In order to shape our work for the next five years, we have agreed on five new strategic objectives, which will help to ensure our efforts are focused on the things that will have the biggest positive impact.

While there isn’t space to share every detail here, we want to give you a flavour of what we will be doing under each of those objectives.

Improve perceptions of cycling so that everyone sees the benefits

While we all know that cycling is a force for good, some people view cycling less positively. Research shows us that this is a noisy minority but they can be influential, and these views are widely covered by some parts of the media.

I am particularly impressed by Cycling UK’s encouragement of everyone to get involved with cycling… particularly people with mobility issues [using] e-bikes, trikes and adapted cycles

Focus group participant

Convincing more people that cycling is broadly a good thing is a crucial factor in persuading more politicians and decision-makers to support and invest in cycling.

We will change perceptions by consistently making the positive case for cycling. One of the tools we will use is ‘framing’, which is about the language we use and how we can most effectively present information and arguments in a way that will engage and persuade our audiences.

As part of our new strategy, we will commission research into the ways we can most effectively make the case for cycling. Because we want to see consistent and effective messaging from all cycling campaigners, we will share this research with the wider community so together we can all have more impact.

Two people are riding on a country road. They are wearing club kit. It's winter and there is snow on the fields behind them. They are wrapped up warm.
Cycling UK member group Calderdale CTC

It’s also crucial that we challenge the perception of who rides a bike. People who cycle come from all walks of life – there is no such thing as a ‘typical cyclist’. We’ll be proving that by showcasing stories from across our supporter base that demonstrate anyone and everyone can benefit from time on a bike.

Shifting public perceptions won’t be easy. It’s a major task and it certainly won’t happen overnight. However, as our director of external affairs Sarah McMonagle says, Cycling UK is up for the challenge: “Improving public perceptions of cycling is a really significant task, but it’s one we’re committed to tackling head-on.

“We know that if we can build a clear consensus that more people moving about by bike is a positive thing, it will put us in a strong position to secure increased support and investment in cycling. This is crucial to unlocking our other strategic objectives, including enabling many more people to start cycling.

We won’t be able to do this alone. Developing new partnerships and coalitions with a broader range of organisations that have crossover interests in things like environment, health and wellbeing will be essential.

“Partnership working is also something you our members told us you wanted to see Cycling UK do more of, and we certainly will be.”

Boost the number and diversity of people who cycle

To fully realise cycling’s amazing power to improve people’s lives, we must increase the number of people who cycle. That means reducing the barriers that people face, both physical and psychological.

We will build on our track record of delivering impactful community-based projects that enable people to discover or revive a love for cycling, like our Big Bike Revival programme.

A woman is riding a tricycle in a park. She is wearing normal clothing and smiling
Promoting all-ability cycling in Hyde, Manchester

Now in its 11th year, it delivers sessions and events across England to help adults to cycle. All these are specifically designed to offer solutions to the barriers that are currently preventing people from cycling.

We will also continue our award-winning cycling projects in Scotland, bringing life-changing benefits to the people who need it most, including disabled people, people with physical and mental health challenges and people who are struggling financially.

We are also actively seeking partnership and funding opportunities to expand our programmes into Wales.

Alan (name changed for anonymity) started cycling regularly after attending weekly cycle sessions at one of our Community Cycle Clubs, FirstLight Trust in Gosport, Hampshire. Initially going along to improve his mental health, Alan soon discovered additional benefits to cycling.

Since selling his car due to the increasing costs associated with it, he cycles for most of his journeys. “Cycling gets you out and gets life back together,” he says.

An essential need for society is for cycling to become recognised as an important mode of transport

Survey response

“It’s one of the best things you can do and is good for everyone. It is the best way to see the environment around you, better than car or motorbike. I used to feel stressed driving on roads, but travelling by bike is fine.”

Make cycling an even more positive experience

We all know the friendship and camaraderie of a great group ride, the thrill of discovering a new route or the reward of completing a journey under your own steam. However, we also recognise that not every cycling experience is as positive as it could be.

We are determined that cycling should be a safe, convenient and enjoyable option for everyone. Whether you’re doing the school run by bike, enjoying long road rides with friends or seeking off-road adventures in wild places, we want to make the UK an even better place for you to ride your bike.

A group of four people are riding along a gravel path with the ocean and mine ruins in the background. They are all riding loaded gravel bikes.
Routes like the West Kernow Way drive tourism

We will support Cycling UK’s brilliant member and affiliate groups to go from strength to strength, enabling them to introduce more people to the joy of cycling. We will create new initiatives and products, to inspire people to get involved in cycling.

And we’ll use our position to engage with groups that are less well represented in cycling, like our highly successful annual 100 Women in Cycling awards.

Based on your feedback from surveys and focus groups, we know that our members value our work creating spectacular new cycling routes across the UK. As commercial director Katie Legg explains, these routes create positive cycling experiences for those who ride them, but the benefits don’t stop there.

“Our strategic focus on enabling more positive cycling experiences is at the heart of our routes work,” she says. “By developing more long-distance routes that immerse riders in the UK’s stunning landscapes and heritage, we inspire deeper connections to the great outdoors.

“Our routes work also promotes sustainable tourism and financially benefits local communities, so it’s not just those who ride our routes that feel the benefits, but the businesses and attractions along them too. This helps more people feel the very tangible benefits cycling offers to communities.”

Cycling UK members Martin and Julie Gill from London stumbled across Cycling UK’s long-distance routes by watching GCN coverage of them and have since ridden King Alfred’s Way, Cantii Way and Rebellion Way. They enjoyed these routes so much they felt inspired to support Cycling UK to create a series of new multi-day routes through their charitable foundation.

They say: “These routes should allow riders to explore new parts of the country – enjoying historical sites, seeing incredible views from quiet roads, and riding on a mix of terrain – so there is something for everyone. The routes will also open new sections of lost byways or closed access, to make for new adventures.”

A woman in a pink headscarf is removing an innertube from a bike tyre
A Big Bike Revival maintenance workshop for women. Photo: Robert Spanring

As a member-driven charity, we’re incredibly grateful for the support of our members and route lovers who donated to our recent long-distance route appeal, with donations doubled thanks to matched funding from the Gill Foundation.

You helped us raise an incredible £43,520, which will go towards developing the first in a series of incredible long-distance routes, allowing more people to enjoy the breath-taking British countryside for generations to come.

Increase transport choice by enabling and encouraging more people to cycle local journeys

Cycling can play a vital role in combatting climate change, reducing pollution and creating better places to live and spend time – if we can enable more people to travel by bike, especially for local journeys.

I certainly would like to see more work done on safe routes to schools and getting kids [cycling]

Focus group participant

To do this, people must feel that cycling is a viable, convenient and attractive alternative to driving. This is where our award-winning campaigning and policy work comes in.

We have campaigned for positive change for cycling throughout our 145-year history, and this will continue to be central to what we do.

We will continue to raise the collective voice of our members and supporters to push for safer roads, more high-quality cycling infrastructure and increased funding for cycling. We will foster partnerships to maximise our impact and have the best possible chance to influence policy and legislation.

We’ll continue to empower people to make their local roads safer through our updated and improved Fill That Hole tool, through which more than 200,000 potholes have been reported.

A group of four women are riding along a dirt path in a forest. They are on a mix of gravel and mountain bikes. The two women at the front have their arms around each other
A group ride in Epping Forest to celebrate the 100 Women in Cycling awards. Photo: Robert Spanring

We will also continue to support and empower people and groups to campaign for change in their local communities through our Cycle Advocacy Network (CAN). One such group is Shoreham-By-Cycle, who were supported by Cycling UK after West Sussex County Council removed a popular cycle lane in the town in 2020, contrary to government guidance.

Through our Cyclists’ Defence Fund and with donations from members and supporters, Cycling UK took legal action against the council. This resulted in a court order confirming that the council had acted illegally and instructing them to contribute £25,000 to Cycling UK’s legal costs.

Clive Andrews, the group’s chair and a Cycling UK member, says: “We felt empowered and represented – knowing that even in our area of coastal suburbia, Cycling UK is looking out for the issues that matter in the journey towards safer, more accessible cycling.

“We’re so pleased to be a member group within Cycling UK’s family. Access to the organisation’s wealth of knowledge, experience and support is a huge help to the work we do, pushing for improvements at a local level.

“Membership gives us the confidence that when we need the support of real experts in cycle campaigning, they are there for us, and that we are part of something nationwide.”

Duncan Dollimore, Cycling UK head of campaigns, reflects on the new strategy: “When we talk about the positive impact cycling has on the challenges facing our society, that resonates with politicians and policymakers more than if we simply talk about cycling in isolation.

“And although not everyone wants to cycle, the argument that people should have more transport choices is hard to disagree with.

“So, how we communicate what we want and why it matters is a core part of an exciting new strategy which is positive about choice, perceptions and diversity.

A woman is cycling on a tree-lined paved path. She's transporting a child in a trailer
Families use bikes for transport and recreation when the active travel provision is good enough. Photo: Julie Skelton

Our campaigning and wider influencing work is essential to deliver this strategy, starting with our general election campaign, which we’ll build on through priority campaigns across all four nations over the next five years.”

Our community-based cycling projects also play an important role in enabling people to cycle as part of their normal daily lives. We are proud to have recently launched the Inclusive Cycling Experience, an exciting new programme funded by the Motability Foundation.

It will support disabled communities in Greater Manchester and Inverness to start cycling, through free try-out sessions and non-standard cycle loans to enable people to consider cycling as an active travel option for everyday journeys.

Achieve greater impact by becoming the best possible charity we can be

In order to deliver on those first four objectives, we recognise that we must further strengthen our organisation to be the best possible charity it can be. The stronger our foundations, the greater the impact we can have.

This means investing in our fantastic staff team, improving systems and processes, and growing our capacity to deliver. Because we are a charity, this also means looking at our income and finding new ways to generate more funding to deliver the work we do.

Improved cycling infrastructure is vital to encourage more people to feel confident to start or continue cycling

Survey response

Without this objective, we wouldn’t be able to realise the others – and that is why it is so crucial to our success.

Together, we believe these five objectives will put us in the best position to maximise our impact as a charity. We recognise that we can’t do it alone, so we will build exciting new collaborations with organisations and brands to achieve our aims.

We will continue to enable and inspire people from all backgrounds and abilities to experience cycling’s joys and benefits. We will speak up for all who cycle to make sure it’s a safe and easy choice for everyone to travel, explore and have fun.

We’re really excited about what the future holds for Cycling UK and we’re ready to write the next chapter in our organisation’s long and proud history.

None of our work would be possible without our members, so thank you for taking this journey with us. Together we can make the UK an even better place for everyone who rides a bike or might do so in the future.

Cycle magazine

Every two months Cycling UK members receive Cycle magazine, filled with interesting and informative articles, news and reviews for all cyclists.

Members can read the magazine in full online; non-members can read selected highlights.

Our vision: happier, healthier and greener lives through cycling.

Our mission: we enable and inspire people from all backgrounds and abilities to experience cycling’s joys and benefits. We speak up for all who cycle to make sure it’s a safe and easy choice for everyone to travel, explore and have fun. Our charity works with diverse partners to maximise our impact.

Our purpose: we improve lives, places and the planet through cycling’s remarkable benefits. We are powered by our heritage and expertise, and the passion of our staff, supporters and volunteers.