Russell Cutts is seeing first hand the surge in cycling’s popularity in Sheffield since last year’s Tour de France.
The owner of Russell’s Bicycle Shed at Sheffield railway station, who runs the city centre’s first bike hire scheme, is having to increase the number of cycles available to loan by 50 per cent to meet demand.
“Since the scheme started we’ve hired bikes from one hour up to two weeks, including many to students and foreign visitors coming to events in Sheffield such as Doc/Fest,” he said. “We even had two of our bikes doing the Land’s End to John O’Groats ride of 875 miles.”
Most people borrow bikes to get around town or for quick visits especially related to the city universities, said Russell.
There were challenges related to the needs of certain visitors, however, which he hoped will be addressed by the new bike sizes available, including folding bikes.
“We were having problems when groups of Chinese students were arriving, with many of them five feet tall needing 15” frames.
“And then at Doc/Fest we’d get overrun, as most of the delegates seemed to be German men over six foot two. Hopefully the new bikes should make things easier.”
This week an independent survey, commissioned by Welcome to Yorkshire and the Tour’s organisers, confirmed that the direct economic benefit to Sheffield for hosting the Stage 2 finish of 2014’s Grand Depart amounted to at least £11 million at a ‘conservative estimate’.
Money spent on accommodation, food and drink, souvenirs and clothing provided the boost, as well as cash generated through shopping, cycling shops, transport and supplies to event organisers.
It is estimated that 380,000 people lined the 22-mile route through Sheffield.
More than half of the spectators felt inspired to cycle more as a result of seeing the race, according to the poll.
Several projects are already under way to build on the enthusiasm. By the end of March 11km of new cycling infrastructure will have been created throughout the city, and funding has been secured for more ‘bike hubs’ like Russell’s, offering storage, changing facilities, maintenance and repair, and bike hire.
A series of cycling events are also in the pipeline, along with a three-day Steel Stage 2 festival in Bradfield over three days in July. This will include a hill climb, a sportif ride and a planned road race around Damflask Reservoir. Crowds can enjoy camping, music and a beer festival.