Time to change the old image

This is a post I wrote for the “Best of Eastbourne” Website which you can find here: http://www.thebestof.co.uk/local/eastbourne/community-hub/blog/view/time-to-shake-off-the-old-image-in-eastbourne

2014 is going to be a great year to be a cyclist in Britain and especially in Eastbourne. Why? We have some of the best male & female professional cyclists in the world; The Giro D’Italia starts in Belfast, The inaugural Women’s Tour ( @thewomenstour ) is taking place and raises Women’s cycling up towards the profile of Mens events and the Tour De France starts in Yorkshire with 3 stages taking place in England. That’s all great but the best two reasons in my opinion are that on Saturday 13th September the Tour of Britain ( @tourofbritain )will come through Eastbourne on route to a stage finish in Brighton and the Borough Council voted this week to revoke the byelaw banning cycling on the Seafront Prom between the Wish Tower & Fisherman’s Green.

Some of what I’ve said above you may already know and you might care about (or not) but probably the least surprising will be that the Tour De France is starting in Yorkshire this year because a great marketing campaign by Gary Verity & the team at Welcome to Yorkshire who in their own words want you to “forget Flat Caps & Whippets” and have “created a fresh, dynamic view of the UK’s largest county” (http://industry.yorkshire.com/about-us/what-we-do) and have persuaded the organisers of the Tour De France to allow them to host “Le Grand Depart”

Now let’s be honest Eastbourne is a great place to live and visit but on occasion we could probably do with people thinking of our town in a “fresh & dynamic” way and maybe we could take a leaf out of Yorkshire’s book and combine cycling with trying to shake off our “old” image. As someone who cycles for pleasure and for commuting the news that the council are moving forwards with new cycle routes around the town is positive, the cycle lane along the seafront from Fisherman’s Green to the Harbour is great as is the link through Bridgmere to Lottbridge Drive & the plan to continue that route to Langney. Less great are some of the 12” wide euphemistically named “cycle lanes” along Kings Drive. These stop every time you reach a junction and do nothing to encourage less confident cyclists to use their bikes to get around town instead of contributing to the regular traffic crawl we see on some of the main routes around town. I know that cycling isn’t universally popular with drivers (I drive a car too) and yes sometimes I ride two abreast and yes I position myself in the middle of my lane sometimes for safety, both of which the Highway Code says I can do but I don’t jump red lights and agree with Sir Chris Hoy who recently said cyclists who do give the rest of us a bad name.

Some responses to the news the Council plan to allow cycling along the prom from the Wish Tower to Fisherman’s Green don’t give pedestrians a good name and seem somewhat predictable with outrage and concerns about safety being the main concerns I’ve seen raised. The safety concerns needn’t be an issue if everyone who wants to use the seafront and prom on foot, two wheels or four do it responsibly. If they do then cycling shouldn’t be any more dangerous than jogging, skating, skateboarding or mobility scooters and no one is saying they shouldn’t be allowed on the prom. Realistically most faster cyclists will still use the road anyway but for parents & children & less confident cyclists wanting to ride along the seafront allowing the use of the prom will be fantastic.

Changes like this can help challenge the image of Eastbourne as not being a place for younger people to visit or live and linking cycling to Eastbourne and using the opportunity of the Tour of Britain coming to town seems to me an ideal opportunity. We have some great cycle routes to use in town and with the South Downs National Park on our doorstep some great places to cycle in the local area too. Eastbourne has some fabulous accommodation and attractions for cyclists & non cyclists alike. We have a successful Cycling Club, Eastbourne Rovers ( http://www.eastbournerovers.com/ ) and a pressure group Bespoke who have produced a handy map of cycle routes around town (http://www.bespokecyclegroup.org/images/Eastbourne_Cycle_Map.pdf ), we have an annual cycling festival in June every year (http://www.eastbournecyclingfestival.com/ )a Council who are aware of the benefits of encouraging cycling and have provided facilities for our young people to ride their BMX’s and some fantastic local bike shops in Eastbourne, Polegate & Seaford. Let’s bring all these together and make the most of international and national media attention that the Tour of Britain will bring and and put on a show for the Tour of Britain’s visit that will challenge Eastbourne’s “old” image and encourage people to come to Eastbourne for cycling as well as the Airshow, or for Turkey & Tinsel & a stroll along the Prom to the Bandstand (whose Tribute Nights sit comfortably alongside more traditional Bandstand performances).

How about a second cycling festival in September with a big screen in Princes Park or Western Lawns to show the race live? The local bike shops might want to have “try before you buy” events, Eastbourne Rovers, Bespoke or British Cycling might be able to run guided rides around Eastbourne? The Council & local schools might want to run Bikeability courses and encourage riding to school the week before September the 13th? Anyone who has watched the Tour De France on TV will know that even the smallest village it passes through turns out tries to outdo its neighbours with it’s level of support for the riders and let’s be sure that Brighton with it’s bike friendly Green Party run Council will maximise the benefits of the Tour of Britain finishing on the seafront there, so come on Eastbourne let’s get on our bikes and beat them to it!

Thanks for reading & happy & safe cycling.

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