Exclusive: Bike Bath organisers announce addition of Oxford as host city to cycle event
World famous Oxford will launch its own cycling festival in 2014 as it strives to achieve world class cycling city status. Bike Oxford aims to attract over 1000 cyclists to the city in its first year with an event supported by Oxford City Council and Oxfordshire County Council. British Cycling has been given an exclusive insight into the event by organisers Breathingspace, the company behind the successful cycling festival in Bath, Bike Bath, which takes place in June. Richard Best from Breathingspace shared some of his thoughts on the eve of the launch of the Bike Oxford event.
Having proved the concept of delivering rides for all ages and abilities works at Bike Bath, including feed stations showcasing the best from local food and drink suppliers, Breathingspace’s Bike Oxford event will also aim to involve local volunteers, bike clubs, bike retailers and businesses.
Discussions around Bike Oxford started earlier this year with a hope to launch the event in 2014 or 2015. Fortunately, such was the appetite for the event in the aspiring world class cycling city, that support from the City and County councils, as well as both Universities, resulted in the green flag being given just one month after a formal presentation was made. Gaining permission for such large events can often take years rather than months, however Best’s explanation of the near-invitation to host the event in Oxford was simple.
“Oxford wants to become a world class cycling city and all parties in both the City and County councils are keen to support cycling initiatives. We also approached both Universities who are keen to promote cycling and these four stakeholders plus Sustrans who share the same view made the decision making process straightforward. Some may call it good timing, but I do think it makes sense to make cycling a feature of a modern city.”
Such a speedy and unanimous response meant that as soon as the Oxford University Rugby Club agreed to host the event, which has been confirmed for 7 September 2014.
With a quick approval, Breathingspace has almost a year to develop Bike Oxford, with the ongoing challenge being to deliver on their commitments.
“We’re not just a sportive organiser that wants to organise a bike ride” Best explains.
“We’re aiming to make our festivals ‘destination events’ that are obviously great cycling occasions but also bring a significant economic benefit to the city.”
“We believe Bike Oxford will be a success because of that and I’m very optimistic that the support and enthusiasm we have encountered to date will be well rewarded. A thousand cyclists seen riding from Oxford on a Sunday morning in September will be a great demonstration that we are moving in the right direction and hopefully it will encourage more people to be part of the event in the future – whether that’s riding, supporting or sponsoring the event.
“We want to appeal to local riders but also attract cyclists from around the country and even overseas to Oxford – and by selecting a start and finish venue near Oxford we will be able to highlight the fact that it is a city eventPlus, we aim to offer more than just a bike ride. As in Bath, the backdrop and attractions of the city are an extremely important factor.
Best describes Oxford as similar to Bath; “in that it’s a small, historic city, which we think people will travel to.
“It’s the sort of place where people think they’d like to go as there are other things to do besides cycling. That has to be good if not everyone in the family is a cyclist.
“Of course, the opportunities for cycling on great routes are excellent – that’s something of a prerequisite and our rides will pass through spectacular scenery with the Cotswolds being selected in 2014.”
Thanks to the support from all those in Oxford Breathingspace now have the opportunity to raise awareness of this cycling event. They hope to capitalise on the support of the universities and councils which already have a pro-cycling community and plan to approach companies who will be able to support the event in a number of ways.
They are also committed to giving back by donating a pound per-rider to Sustrans who have a number of ongoing projects in Oxford and by working with local cycling clubs to help increase their membership.
Best hopes that all of these details come together to promote cycling in the region and that the Bike Oxford event is part of a sustainable legacy for the local cycling economy including the independent bike shops.
The team from Bike Oxford are now in the process of attracting riders and securing sponsors who see the benefit of engaging with the event and raising their profile.
“We like to take one step at a time, it’s time consuming putting all the pieces of the jigsaw in place but we are pleased to make this announcement ahead of Christmas.Unlike Bike Bath, Bike Oxford will debut as a single day event but Best hopes to add a second day in the future.
Despite the growing interest in cycling, Best is cautious about launching too many new events too quickly.
“We’d rather add one or two events per year and get it right, than launch a long list of locations with mediocre results. However, we do welcome interest from those cities wanting to launch their own cycling event. Today, the sportive sector is a competitive market so it’s important to get any offer right. The reality is, as riders become more experienced I sense the need for sportives will diminish, so we have to offer more than just a bike ride. Simply, it is our responsibility, as event planners and organisers, to engage with riders in new ways if we want to build and create new events.
“We are sure Bike Oxford will be a success and I’m very optimistic and grateful for the enthusiasm that we’ve encountered so far which has been fantastic. Imagine what the reaction will be when a thousand cyclists ride from Oxford on a sunny Sunday morning in September. I am sure such a sight will encourage more people to be part of the event in future years – whether that’s riding, supporting or hopefully sponsoring the event.”
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