In May 2014 I put pen to paper, or more accurately pixels to screen and reflected on news that Birmingham Sky Ride 2014 had been cancelled. At the time of writing I was concerned that this news was in fact much more significant than it first appeared and that it did in fact exemplify Birmingham City Council’s real commitment (or lack there of) to cycling. In what has transpired to be a moment of great irony I then titled the piece ‘Birmingham Sky Ride Cancelled Indefinitely’. The title was meant as nothing more than the suggestion that if, as I suspected, this cancellation was due to a lack of political leadership then we ought not to expect great change in the near future.
Little did I know that less than a year later I would sit at my computer almost lost for words at the ineptitude of Birmingham City Councils as they announce the cancellation of Birmingham Sky Ride 2015.
Here’s why it matters and a few alternatives to lift your soul and keep you doing the right thing even when those we elected can’t be bothered.
Why It Matters
1: Sky Ride is a declaration of intent, it is the one time in the year that political leadership make the decision to close major roads and prioritise needs and aspirations of cyclists and other vulnerable road users. If they can’t do it for a day why would anyone trust them on a greater scale??
2: Cancellation reaffirms that road space actually belongs to motorists. If a UKIP member states such things many of us rightly roll our eyes in disgust, if a Labour controlled council administers this reality our silence is expected.
3: Sky Ride is massive and definitive. In 2013 Sky Ride Birmingham included 18,000 participants. There are people who travel from city to city enjoying every opportunity they have to cycle on traffic free roads. Canceling Sky Ride is bad news for tourism and for the economy it caricatures Birmingham as significantly less cycle friendly than Manchester or Leeds.
4: The primary reason cited by the city council for cancelling Sky Ride 2015 is that there are ‘Cricket fixtures at Edgbaston’. The logic of that reason has two significant flaws. Firstly it locates the interest and possibilities of cycling within a very particular geographical square of middle class suburbia. How about bringing Sky Ride to the north or east of the city? The City Council will of course tell you that Edgbaston is the flattest part of the city. It’s funny how hills don’t stop Sky Ride in any other city. Secondly, Cycling or Cricket? Interesting conundrum. . . I suspect I know which one makes a greater contrubtion to public health.
5: An inability to schedule this great day demonstrates that Birmingham City Council has an institutional inability to learn from the past. That is bad news for a city administering £23m in cycling infrastructure. Anyone can spend money, only the wise can spend it effectively.
"I understand Birmingham will not be one of the cities across the UK which will be staging a Sky Ride in 2015. It is disappointing. Events like this are great for raising the profile of cycling and getting lots of people to take part." David Cox CTC
So here’s a few alternatives to lift your weary spirits.
1: Ride The Reservoir 22nd March 2015
In aid of the ever brilliant St. Mary’s Hospice this is a great ride to kick off your cycling season. There’s a gentle 10km around the reservoir which is easily suitable for all the family or a slightly more ambitious and very humorously named, ‘Tour De Bartley Green’ at 60km. While there is a little on road riding required I’m confident the crowd will carry any nervous riders along with heeps of encouragement.
2: L’Eroicca Britania 19th - 21st June 2015
Book your train tickets early and exchange city smog for the beautiful Peak District. This unique event has both eyes firmly fixed on all things vintage and is an absolutely fantastic day/weekend for all the family. Book your place early. This is an event of sheer joy and plenty of geekery for the cycling nerd in your family.
3: The Lapierre Tour of the Black Country 10th May 2015
On this 100km Sportive you’re sure to be surrounded by folks taking this ride pretty seriously but don’t let that detract from what is probably the best Sportive route in the annual calendar. Organised to the highest professional standards and quickly gaining a reputation right across Europe this is a ride of absolute brilliance (if a little unsuitable for the kids).
4: Birmingham Bikeathon September???
This ride will offer you three routes of varying length and severity and is thus a great option for all the family. All funds raised go to help the battle against blood cancer so you really do have no excuse not to participate. While dates are yet released it is likely to be late summer. Register your interest now.
For the women out there Sky’s Breeze network continues to offer women an enormous breadth of great opportunities to get stuck in and enjoy all that cycling has to offer. If you're a women looking for an accesible way into cycling this is definitely a program you should check out. Hunrdeds of our customers and friends have participated in Breeze and all of them speak of having had a brilliant experience.
Every year ordinary people do what they can to encourage their friends and family to participate in the wonderful thing we call cycling. It might be an evening ride down the canal or a Sunday afternoon in the park. It doesn’t matter where, when or for how long, what makes a difference is simply sharing the thing we love.
So come on, lets not let incompetent bureaucrats piddle on our incredible bonfire.
Get out there and embrace the joy of cycling.
A great year lies ahead!
If you’d like to leave recommendations of other rides feel free to leave comments below and we’ll add them to the calendar as we go along.