Remember the Summer of Love? You know, San Francisco, 1967, flowers in your hair and all that?
Of course you don’t, because you weren’t even born yet. Or if you were, you were thousands of miles away, getting drenched on the family holiday in Scarborough. And for the lucky/unlucky few who happened to be right there in Haight Ashbury, caught up in the maelstrom of that zeitgeist – well, of course you don’t remember it either, you were too freaked out on free love, dope and rock ‘n’ roll. Well, whatever. But the summer of ‘67 will always be remembered, especially by those who weren’t there, because it was the start of something new, something revolutionary, something that liberated us from the shackles of our parents’ lives.
And now it is the turn of our children’s children to have a revolution, but what kind of revolution will it be? An X-Factor, x-rated ecstasy-fuelled revolution? I certainly hope not. But I reckon that they have something far more exciting, far more fulfilling in store. I’m hoping that 2012 will be remembered as the start of a different revolution – a moment in time that will one day be known as THE SUMMER OF VELO (don’tcha just love anagrams?).
Just think about it. We had the victorious return of Brad Wiggins, the very first British winner of the Tour de France. Along with that was the first second-placed British rider in the Tour – Chris Froome (we’ll forget about the Kenya-born, South African raised bit of his story), who promises to be the new star on the horizon. Then there is Mark Cavendish, who might not have won the green jersey this year but still proved he is the best sprinter in the Tour, and the world. This alone brought cycling into every front room in the UK (although the front room isn’t the best place for cycling: that should be outside, on the streets and bridleways and byways).
Then we had the Olympics in London, with silver success in the women’s road race and gold in the men’s time trial (arise, Sir Brad). Meanwhile, across London in the Olympic velodrome, Hoy and Co were back in business. At the end of the Games, Team GB’s cycling tally included 12 Olympic and 22 Paralympic medals. And if that isn’t enough to inspire you to get on your bike, nothing will.
Of course, there has been a down side just lately – injuries to Bradley Wiggins and Shane Sutton, who were knocked off their bikes by motorists. But even that down side has an upside – it has brought cycling safety to the fore and forced the country to debate the issue at every level of society. Safety is, after all, the biggest concern of every person who takes to the road on two wheels.
There are so many undercurrents of cycling at the moment – London Cycling Campaign, British Cycling, SkyRides, The Times’s Cities Fit for Cycling campaign – but they all come together with one message: to get more people out on bicycles, cycling safely, for their own health and for the whole world’s well-being. This is a moment that authorities and cycling supporters should not let slip, because it will be years before the wheel goes full circle and such a moment comes around again. There are some plans to promote cycling over the next year – the London Cycling Festival comes to mind – but that is no more than a drop in the ocean.
So, in years to come will we look back on this summer as a moment of revolution? I believe we will. And this time round, we will have no reason or excuse to forget it. We were all there, in the Velodrome, on Box Hill, or simply in front of the box at home. Yes, we were all part of this revolution. But it’s up to every one of us to make sure that this new burst of cycling fervour is a revolution without end. Amen.