When Alastair Humphreys – adventurer, author, and motivational speaker – spotted one of our bike repair stations posted on Twitter, he loved the concept and was keen to know more. So, we got in touch and had a chat about Alastair’s work, how our repair stations can help, and his mission to encourage more people into the outdoors:
What are the benefits of people getting out in nature?
Well, I think these range from the obvious in that it is simply fun and good for your physical and mental health. But also we can help promote lots of medium and small sized businesses, local employers, and family businesses in rural areas.
It is also really important to recognise that getting people out in nature encourages people to love where they live, to find the nature nearby to them in their everyday lives, and thus encourage people to not fly off to other sides of the world. So, it can be better for the environment.
Getting people out into nature is great because only once people know about a place do they care about it and love it, and therefore want to protect it. So by getting more people out in nature, we help move towards a critical mass whereby people care enough about nature to hold businesses and governments to account.
What travel infrastructure would you like to see more of to encourage this?
To start, your bike repair stands that originally led me to get in touch with you are a good example of the sort of thing I’m interested in. It isn’t the sort of people who already have loads of bikes, loads of camping gear, loads of equipment, loads of maps and lovely outdoors. I’m one of those people and it’s great – the more the merrier! But the challenge really is to get new people out there.
In order to do that, we need to make it really, really easy. We need sign posts, foot paths and bike paths that are safe, traffic free and well maintained so that they’ll encourage people to actually use them. And then along the way we need things like information boards talking about nature, why it’s important, how to look after it, and how to respect the countryside code. We need bins, we need things like your bike repair stations to help people when stuff goes a bit wrong. And we need maps that show people how far it is to the nearest cafe, stuff like that.
There’s a really good website called Cycle.Travel which I’d give a shout out to for helping make it more accessible for people to get out and cycle.
Image credit: Alastair Humphreys is an adventurer, author, and motivational speaker (credit: Alastair Humpreys)
In what other ways can we as a society do more to make the outdoors more inclusive?
I think an important thing is just to accept that different people do the outdoors differently. Not everyone does the gnarly outdoors traditional stuff. Some people really like to just park their car and then walk 20 metres and then sit down for a picnic in a grassy area, and that’s absolutely fine.
We shouldn’t sneer at people for not going fully into the wild. Some people can’t walk very far or cycle very well, so they need decent access and wide gates. Finding ways to make the outdoors accessible for disabled people, for people who aren’t very fit, or for those who don’t have much expertise is very important. As is trying to encourage different diverse groups to get out into the outdoors more.
The way we do that is by having the right role models for people, not just middle class white men who are quite good at riding really fast. Without this representation, then it’s not going to reach out to the entire country.
At what point did you decide to start sharing your experiences, and what motivates you to inspire others?
I started sharing my cycling experiences 20 years ago when I cycled around the world. I wrote a blog and then a book about it, and I did that firstly because it was fun, secondly because I wanted to try and share my stories.
But thirdly, it was experiencing the benefits that spending a lot of time being active out in nature did for my physical health, my mental health, my self confidence, my hopes and ambitions, and my love and concern for the planet. Getting all of those things just from something as simple as a bike ride was what motivated me to try and encourage others to do the same.
You can find out more about Alastair’s fantastic work here: https://alastairhumphreys.com/