Scotland could mirror the success of countries such as Denmark and the Netherlands to become a nation of cyclists, six-time Olympic gold medallist Sir Chris Hoy has suggested.
The Edinburgh-born cyclist said the sport’s rising popularity in the wake of Britain’s triumphs at the Olympics and in the Tour de France meant the time was right for embracing an increasingly bike-friendly ethos.
Sir Chris said: “The potential is there. It’s not something that will happen overnight but we will have to keep pushing and pushing. It’s not just for one reason either, such as cutting down on road congestion or reducing carbon emissions.
“It’s about the obesity issue and improving people’s health. It’s a social issue too. Cycling can be purely about transport or you can make it a recreational activity.”
The track star called for more clear and “meaningful” bike lanes as well as urging workplaces to provide bike storage and changing facilities.
He said: “If you look at somewhere like Denmark, we can’t use the excuse that it’s the weather here. They have cold winters too. It’s about making cycling easier and more pleasant. If you make things easy then people will do it.”
The Olympian was speaking after he unveiled the velodrome named in his honour in Glasgow last week.
The 2,000 capacity Sir Chris Hoy Velodrome will include 2,000 additional seats during the city’s 2014 Commonwealth Games of which the cyclist is an official ambassador.
His comments were yesterday welcomed by Sustrans, the UK’s leading sustainable transport charity.
National director of Sustrans Scotland John Lauder said: “Chris Hoy is exactly right. There has never been a better time for the Scottish Government to invest in cycling. Cycling has got a tremendous amount to offer.
“Most of the trips we make by car are less than three miles – they are very short and eminently cyclable or walkable.
“There is no inherent reason why Scotland can’t emulate countries like Denmark, Sweden or the Netherlands, where the weather and topography can be challenging but they still cycle a lot and have a much higher standard of living and quality of life.”
Following his success at the 2012 Games where he won two gold medals, taking his Olympic gold total to six, Britain’s most successful Olympian was also awarded the Freedom of the City of Edinburgh, where he was born and brought up, before moving to Manchester where the British Cycling Team is based. The athlete was the star of the official victory parades of Scotland’s Olympic and Paralympic heroes through the streets of Glasgow and Edinburgh last month.
He was recently honoured by the university which helped kick-start his glittering career. The University of Edinburgh named him alumnus of the year at a special ceremony, an award made annually to former Edinburgh students deemed to have made “a significant impact in public life”. Sir Chris graduated from the university with a BSc in applied sport science in 1999.