PLANS to raise Warwickshire’s profile as a cycling destination have raised eyebrows among local riders.
Over the past four years the county has played host to the Ovo Energy sponsored Women and Men’s Tours – both major, international events on the cycling calendar.
They have seen thousands of fans line the streets of the county to cheer on the riders and have provided a multi-million pound shot in the arm for the local economy.
And now business and tourism chiefs want companies to use the events to attract more cyclists to the county.
Helen Peters, chief executive of tourism body Shakespeare’s England, said: “Warwickshire’s attributes as a cycling destination were highlighted by the national press and in the leading road cycling magazine.
“We would certainly encourage businesses to target cycle groups. Often it is as simple as offering or promoting facilities such as safe storage for bikes and suggesting routes and café stops.”
But cyclists in the area say the council must invest in more cycling routes to make the county more rider friendly.
Green county councillor and keen cyclist Jonathan Chilvers said: “I’m delighted the council wants to encourage cycling tourism and grow our economy in this way.
“But if it’s serious it must invest in more safe, attractive off-road routes. People don’t want to spend leisure time cycling on dangerous clogged up roads.
“Well publicised off-road routes have been really successful in other parts of the UK and with our beautiful Warwickshire countryside there’s no reason it can’t work here too.”
And a spokeswoman for Startford Cycle Forum added: “Cycling on the main country roads is not a pleasant experience and it’s quite normal to be close-passed by cars doing 60 mph and more.
“The local cycling routes map only really has two off-road routes – the Greenway and the canal towpath to Wilmcote. Cycling on the main routes through town is downright awful and can frequently be dangerous.”
But county council transport spokesman Jeff Clarke assured the authority was committed to the development of cycling.
He said: “The main focus for investment at the current time is on expanding cycle networks within Warwickshire’s towns and on linking urban areas where the towns lie within easy cycling distance of each other on the basis that this approach has the greatest potential to increase levels of cycling.”
“The county council has Cycle Network Developments Plans for each of Warwickshire’s main urban areas with about 60 key cycle links identified as being required to serve existing and future residential areas and to complete the core local networks.
“The council is actively working to secure the funding required to deliver these cycle routes and is currently reviewing a number of funding proposals.”
WCC recently welcomed government funding for a Leamington to Rugby cycle route as part of a scheme to improve the National Cycle Network.
The new 6.5mile trail will link into the existing route which connects the two towns via Long Itchington, and will also help expand wildlife corridors.