Downhill From Here: How Climate Change Threatens Cycling as We Know It
3rd August 2023
We're massive fans of our bikes, and cycling is a precious pastime spent with the people we love in the places we love. But, like us, if you've spent much time on two wheels, you'll know that the trails are changing.
Our esteemed Head of Programmes, Dom Winter, dived into the research to examine how climate change affects the sport and the places it relies on in our latest report.
You can read the full report here, but in summary, it found what many of us already know - climate change is profoundly impacting outdoor recreation, and cycling is affected in 3 key areas:
Threats to access due to increasingly intense and frequent extreme weather:
Such as risks from hot dry summers, wetter stormier winters, flooding and landslides. Storms in the UK are predicted to become more frequent and severe as climate change continues. For example, in November 2021, Storm Arwen caused numerous trail closures, leaving behind debris and damaged trees which created dangerous conditions. In Aberdeenshire alone, 13 of 23 riding spots were affected, and approximately three quarters of 500 km of trails were closed.
Threats to riders' health and safety:
This includes risks from heat, increasing pest- borne diseases, injuries, air pollution, and from reduced sport participation; For Example: Heat hinders decision making which makes the sport riskier. It also directly impacts athletic performance and increases health risks such as heart problems and cyclists have died due to heat already. Air pollution exacerbates extreme heat health risks, doubling the risk of a fatal heart attack.
Threats to experience and events:
This includes risks to events such as UCI competitions, participation, local economies,
shifted timings for riding, rider crowding, and nature. As forest fires increase (themselves a threat to access), areas become less enjoyable due to damage to the location, to nature, and from smoke. This can close iconic mountain biking destinations - as seen when Canadian MTB destination ‘The Farm’ burned down in a wildfire in 2021 - and increase crowding at less affected locations.
It's All To Play For.
The findings are grim, but if we act immediately and collectively, we can protect the places and pastimes we love. These are some actionable steps that you can take right now:
Educate Yourself: An informed community is better positioned to influence decision-makers! So learn about climate change by reading reports like this, keeping up with the news, listening to podcasts, and reading blogs or books.