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“The jacket potatoes were great…

Posted by andy on Thursday, 14 March 2013.

Image courtesy of www.sportsunday.co.uk

“…and we loved cycling in Eden!” That’s overwhelming response from everyone I spoke to at the finish of the Eden Valley Epic cycle sportive.

Track back 24 hours and I’m armed with a huge pile of bright yellow signs and an equally big stack of zip ties and heading out to sign the route of the Eden Valley Epic cycle sportive. The next 7 hours are taken up with a familiar routine of approaching a junction, locating a suitable post, put zip tie round said post, curse, put zip tie round the right way and attach sign, check sign is visible on approach, check junction from both directions for blind spots…and repeat.  All this to ensure that 1,000 cyclists don’t end up getting lost in Eden  - a fairly big responsibility! 

So why am I doing this? Why did we decide to initiate a cycling event in Eden? And how does this fit in with an organisation that aims to promote responsible tourism. Well, I guess the simple answer to this is how else do you get 1,000 cyclists to a come to Eden and cycle? No, we couldn't think of a better way either. In terms of our responsible tourism agenda, promoting low-impact activities such as cycling to both visitors and local tourism businesses forms a key part of our work. This might be stating the obvious, but increasing the number of visitors who cycle will ultimately reduce the number of people driving around during their stay. And in Eden, with its beautiful, quiet and picturesque lanes, that make it just perfect for cycling, this is something to be preserved.

So back the Eden Valley Epic, and a spot of post event reflection. For those not familiar with cycling events, normally you don't just click your fingers and like a Pied Piper of cyclists lead 1,000 bike riders to where you want them to be. Normally, in the first year of an event, you might be lucky to get a few hundred cyclists turning up and then as the event reputation grows numbers increase year on year. So why did this happen in Eden? Well, my view is that we found the perfect gap in the market, in the perfect location, with the perfect route, at the perfect time of year and at a time when cycling is really on the up. Maybe I'm slightly biased.

But what are the local benefits are hear you ask. Surely the cyclists turn up in their lycra, eat their own energy bars and go home. Well, maybe a few post event figures will help. Our initial analysis of the event data shows that 972 cyclists registered and started the ride. That makes the EVE the biggest cycling event ever in Eden. 834 of these cyclists were from outside the Eden District so that's bringing their pounds to local businesses. Around 500 were from outside Cumbria. From our post event survey's we've estimated that average spend was around £50 per person. Oh, and don't forget their friends and family who came with them too. 180 of these people stayed overnight in Penrith or Eden. That's 180 people who probably wouldn't have stayed overnight in Eden in March. For local businesses that has to be a good thing.

The most interesting part of all this, if you'll excuse me a little bit of economics, is that when £50 is spent in the locally economy, it can be worth up £120 through indirect spending and induced spending, that spending's that happened as a result of the first £50 being spent. This brings us nicely back to those delicious baked potatoes that all the cyclists enjoyed after their cycle round the Eden Valley, which were bought locally by Penrith Leisure Centre, as a result of the Eden Valley Epic being held in Penrith.

So while it's true, that compared to our European counterparts, in many respects the UK remains years, if not decades, from being a true cycling country, but for one weekend in this small part of Cumbria, you could certainly be excused from thinking that we're well on the way to catching up. As a result, we're already excited about future cycling events in Eden, yes, we initiating more of them . And through our Cyclists Friendly Business campaign, we will be helping local businesses to recognise the role cycle tourism can play in the local economy. Through our unique Visit Give Protect scheme the Eden Valley Epic raised over £1000 for local conservation projects and we expect future events will to. So local businesses and local conservation projects both benefit - what's not to like about that!

Finally, and I'll step off my soap box shortly, if you consider the wider health benefits of cycling and simple fact that people who cycle are, on average, as healthy as people 10 years younger, the benefits locally and nationally should not be underestimated . On that note, I'm going out for a ride? Are you?

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