CYCLING is booming in Middlesbrough with official figures showing the number of people of getting on their bikes has hit a new high.
Above: Summer 2011 and Sky Ride Middlesbrough passes through the new Prissick cycling facility - two new ventures coming together to make a tangible difference to cycling levels in the city.
Thanks to a range of high profile cycling initiatives and events the number of bike journeys made in the town has jumped by a massive 72%.
And after a year of packed cycling events in Middlesbrough in 2011 it is hoped the numbers will climb further over the coming years.
Data provided by Middlesbrough Council’s automatic cycle counters, located in five sites across the town, show that the number of recorded cycle journeys increased from 82,486 in 2006 to 139,341 in 2011.
The stats show the biggest rise came between 2008 and 2010 when Middlesbrough’s Healthy Town programme distributed more than 1,900 bikes to workplaces and primary and secondary schools.
This Government-grant funded programme enabled residents, workers and children to buy a brand new mountain bike, along with helmet and accessories, at a discounted rate.
It also enabled cyclists to receive basic training so they were confident and safe out and about.
Further initiatives in Middlesbrough include a new partnership between British Cycling and Middlesbrough Council, increased cycle storage at schools, new cycle maps and routes, cycling network improvements and the creation of the Middlesbrough Cycle Centre at Middlesbrough Bus Station.
Popular cycling events including Sky Ride Middlesbrough, the Sky Ride local rides and Teescycle have helped raise the profile of cycling over the past four years and attracted thousands to enjoy cycling in and around Middlesbrough.
The momentum is set to continue thanks to the new Middlesbrough Cycle Circuit which is a purpose built enclosed cycle track based at Prissick Sports Base for cyclists of all abilities.
The cycle circuit was part-funded by British Cycling and the Healthy Town programme and has had more than 10,000 users since it opened in March this year.
The circuit is now the base for a new recreational cycling club called the Tees Valley Riders.
And a new British Cycling programme, called the Breeze network, is under way at the circuit to encourage more women to get on their bikes.
Councillor Brenda Thompson, Middlesbrough’s Executive Member for Public Health, said: “There has been an awful lot of hard work put in to encourage cycling in Middlesbrough and the figures show this work has had a real effect.
“Cycling is great fun and has so many health benefits, both physical and mental, it’s cheaper than driving a car and good for the environment too.”
Peter Riddell Recreation Manager for British Cycling in the North East has been working with Middlesbrough Council over the past two years to increase cycling participation.
He said: “It’s fantastic that more people are enjoying cycling in Middlesbrough.
“What has been really special is the willingness of volunteers to get involved with Sky Ride, the setting-up of Tees Valley Riders and the Breeze programme.
“By getting involved as Ride Leaders and Breeze champions volunteers are enabling many more people to regularly enjoy cycling and they deserve a great deal of credit for that.”
Tees Valley Riders was developed with help from British Cycling by Middlesbrough Sky Ride leaders and participants who wanted to keep riding together after the 2011 Sky Ride Local programme ended in September.
The Breeze network’s rides for women are holding a bike ride and social meet up at Middlesbrough Cycle Circuit from 9.30am to noon on Sunday, December 4. For more details see www.breezebikerides.com