At last year’s Dutch Grand Prix, 300,000 people flocked to the small town of Zandvoort to watch the high-speed thrills of Formula One. For a marquee petrolhead race like this, you would expect people to use their cars.
Except, there was a ban on driving to the track. 45,000 F1 fans cycled to the event that weekend, with the remaining fans taking the bus or train.
In the UK, hundreds of thousands of people travel most weekends to see their football clubs play. But, currently, only a small percentage cycle. What are the reasons for this?
On the face of it, more cycling to football stadia can only bring positive benefits. Lower air pollution, lower congestion levels, health benefits, and less street-side car parking on match days.
Cycle parking may offer the most cost effective thing football grounds can do. While safer cycling routes require road changes, planning, and many years of work, cycle parking is a straightforward answer to get more people cycling on matchday.
A small footprint with a big impact
Website Pedal to the Pitch identifies safe cycle routes, infrastructure around the stadium, and cycle parking as the core barriers preventing more cycling to matchdays.
In a nutshell, these are the reasons preventing active travel from expanding further in the UK, full-stop. If people don’t feel safe and welcomed to cycle, they’ll use a car instead.
But major events like football matches, concerts, parades, and exhibitions are slightly different. Whereas cycle parking at your local supermarket requires short-stay spaces for a gradual flow of customers, larger events need hundreds of spaces for one allocated time slot.
This is the area that has prevented even the most cycle-dependent football fans from using their bike to travel to more games.
Even with the right cycle routes, fans will be put off if they’re left looking for a spare railing or fence to lock their bicycle to.
Harnessing the pre-existing security
When installed strategically, cycle parking at football stadia can help pull in hundreds of local fans.
Racks can be powder coated in club colours, and used a strong marketing tool to change fan behaviour.
Active travel even counts towards football clubs’ sustainability ranking.
Crucially, many football grounds have a high level of natural surveillance, especially close to car parking areas.
As we’ll see at the modern Brentford G-Tech stadium, the cycle parking area is patrolled by security cameras and staff throughout the build up, during, and after the match.
The cycle parking will have thousands of fans looking for a pre-match pint or pie, further increasing the ‘natural’ surveillance.
That results in building fans’ trust in cycling to the ground, with the snowball effect of more bikes meaning better security.