UK Cycling: More Wheels On The Road But Problems Persist

Back in 2014, the clothing brand and source of yellow jerseys Le Coq Sportif claimed that the Tour de France could count on 4bn viewers around the world for that year’s event. At the time, that was more than half of the world’s population of 7.3bn. Fast forward to 2021’s race, and the company’s estimations seem a little wide of the mark.

Around 150m Europeans tuned in to see UAE Team Emirates rider Tadej Pogačar claim the coveted jersey, for instance.
The problem with Le Coq Sportif’s figure is that the Tour de France can’t really count on too many viewers from major markets in Asia so it all sounds like hyperbole.

One thing has become increasingly clear though, namely, that cycling viewership and its overall popularity as a sport are on the rise. In 2021, a separate event, the Tour of Britain, saw audience numbers grow by 30% over the previous race.

The Tour of Britain was won by Belgian Wout van Aert of Team Jumbo–Visma. However, the UK put up a strong showing, eventually coming second courtesy of Ethan Hayter.

Jonas Vingegaard

The Tour de France in 2022 was also a highlight of recent years, becoming the most-viewed event since 2015. This success involved the audiences of fifteen TV stations in the European Broadcasting Union, as well as an equal number of radio stations. Denmark’s Jonas Vingegaard won the most recent edition of the race, as Danish broadcasters found an audience share of 82.35%.

So, where is the fresh interest in cycling coming from? There are a few possibilities. For one, the growth in supplementary activities like sports betting is able to attract even non-fans to the sport.

British operator bet365 offers wagers on the Tour de France, Giro d’Italia, Tour Down Under, and Tour of Flanders, among others, which provides fans with an added incentive to tune in to events. bet365 is described on as offering live streaming itself, as and when races are broadcast.

The latter site chiefly concerns itself with American sports betting pages and offers, especially Ohio sportsbook promos, but its review of bet365 outlines a global brand, rather than a local entity. Of course, cycling still remains a bit of a niche betting market, at least when compared to football and cricket.

Tour of Scandinavia

Cycling has also seen a boom in female representation, especially on the professional circuit. The Tour de France Femmes achieved a total audience of 20m in August last year on the usual Tour channel, France Télévisions.

In addition, the women’s Tour of Scandinavia managed to find 4.6m cycling fans despite being broadcast on the niche station Eurosport. The race took place just eight days after the Tour de France Femmes.


    Want the best cycling experience?
    Sign up for the latest bikes, gear, and accessories reviews out there.

    By signing up, you agree to our Privacy Policy
    and European users agree to the data transfer policy

    British Cycling estimates that one million women have taken up the sport in recent years. Figures from the governing body are extremely positive in more ways than one. Fifty-seven medals have been claimed by elite female cyclists from the UK, while a good 275,000 civilians regularly participate in British Cycling’s guided journeys.

    Still, there are other places to look to find the source of the country’s cycling surge. Over the past decade, efforts have been made to re-pedestrianize town centers and make cities much more cycling-friendly.

    Infrastructure company Colas claims that, outside of London, there are 107,084km of cycleways with almost 2,000 routes just in and around Bristol. These statistics mean that the southwestern city is the best place for people to explore on two wheels.

    Car-Free Zones

    The vast majority of cycle-friendly places are located south of the Humber, including Reading, Cardiff, Luton, Southampton, and Brighton. In the north, only Newcastle, York, and Hull are well-equipped to handle bicycle journeys.

    Scotland has four places that are cycle-friendly while the capital London has six. The study was conducted based on the number of local cycle paths as well as the frequency of accidents involving cars.

    Unfortunately, It’s not all fantastic news. The same source indicates that less than half of UK people believe that their town or city is safe to cycle in, perhaps because the creation of car-free zones usually occurs in the center of commercial areas, rather than out in the suburbs.

    For instance, it’s no surprise that London is pleasant to cycle in when it has one of the largest car-free zones in the world, as Mayor Sadiq Khan plans to cut pollution by 27%. The Guardian newspaper has also lamented the fact that the UK appears to be behind the rest of Europe in terms of its commitment to public cycling. Sales of electric bikes in particular weren’t doing too well in August last year, suggesting that the country is struggling with an unusual problem.

    All the evidence indicates that our fondness for cycling is up – but we’re just not buying bikes.
    Does this mean we’re all taking advantage of local hire services or are we using hand-me-downs from older generations? In any case, there’s still plenty to be optimistic about for a British cyclist in 2024 and beyond.

    About the author
    UK Cycling: More Wheels On The Road But Problems Persist — Bike Hacks