Philip Benstead wrote:QUESTION
Is cycle touring and leisure cycle a sport?
• Sport comes from a shortening of disport (Middle English), formed, via French, from Latin dis ‘away’ and portare ‘carry’ used in much the same way as the expression ‘to take someone out of themselves’. Sport meant any kind of entertainment, and only started to be used in the modern sense of physical activities with set rules in the late 18th century.
Nice research Phil.
So: had the bicycle been invented in the 17th century, cycle touring might perhaps have been called sport. But it wasn't and the key phrase I take from the above passage is: "in the modern sense".
In the modern sense, as defined by the Sports England a few years ago (much to Kevin Mayne's misplaced indignation) the kind of cycling CTC is, was and IMHO should be concerned with, is NOT sporty.
We are, were and should be about the use of the bike for some other purpose than the tail-chase pursuit of merely getting 'better' at cycling. The great thing about our kind of cycling, as a way of going places - a most delightful way if I may say so - is how it nevertheless smuggles healthy exercise into the lives of those who are too lazy or simply don't have the time to walk that far. We are not sporty, but we get fit anyway.
To me it seems that touring and transport cycling are two sides of the same coin. Indeed it is difficult to say where one ends and the other starts. If I go the pretty way to work, although it takes longer, am I not in some sense touring? Perhaps you think my definition of touring is too broad. Well I could say the same about your definition of practical transport. If you ride to work so fast you need a shower when you get there you have indeed re-purposed the journey as sport. (NOBODY takes a shower after walking to work - or cycling there in Holland.) Or perhaps you need to change your clothes because your MTB has showered you with mud from the filthy bridlepaths you took. You may find that fun, but it's not really a practical way to go. Most people do not cycle like that in countries where most people do cycle. And for many cyclists, their definition of what is practical has a strong eco-political bias. They'll put up with all manner of inconveniences in order to keep true to their beliefs. And there's nothing wrong with that. I've done all of these things myself.
So lets get back to touring - in the broadest sense of the word. What's so great about that? How did it ever come to pass that a bunch of 'mere' touring cyclists founded, funded and governed Britain's main cycle campaigning organisation? It's inevitable. Every cycle transport campaign is by definition composed of people who like using bikes to go places so much that they want to campaign about it. If going to work by bike is nice, going to nicer places is even nicer, so the same people tend to be into 'touring' too - even if the only touring they have time for is the long way to work or a ride out into the countryside at the weekend. The proof of this is that all the successful cycle transport campaigns in other more cycle-friendly countries are also heavily into cycle touring - in the broad sense of the word. The ADFC in Germany for example, does far more for touring than CTC has lately done: it has researched and established all the long-distance routes that criss-cross that country and publishes a national series of cycling maps covering the whole country at 1:150k scale and favourite touring areas at 1:75k.
Touring, when it comes down to it, is nothing more than a whole lot of using a bike for transport. And it's the fun part. Lets face it, cycling to work can be pretty grim, and repetitive. It does not of itself inspire any great enthusiasm or campaigning zeal. And you don't really need to join anything in order to do it - not any more than you need to join something because you walk to work. (There used to be a Pedestrians Association, but almost nobody joined, so it rebranded as Living Streets and became a grant-seeking rather than member-supported charity.) Third party insurance? Pah. You are no more likely to damage another person or their property by riding a bike than whilst doing a whole lot of other normal everyday things.
Fact: if people are to part with significant amounts of their hard-earned they need to be getting more out of cycling than the journey to work. They need to be some kind of cycling enthusiast. And which cycling enthusiasm has the best fit with promoting cycling for all? That will be cycle touring of course. And that's because touring is a mild enthusiasm. Tourists are criticised for that by cyclists who consider themselves more serious, but being less serious is what keeps tourists grounded in reality. Tourists are easily put off from cycling in less pleasant places, places where only the brave, thrill-seeking or no-option cyclist will go. I'm talking about main roads tolerated by roadies in pursuit of speed, rough trails sought out by MTBers, and the stupid barriers plus third-rate shared-use footways tolerated by those who have no option but to cycle there. What is wanted for the promotion of cycle-touring is exactly the same mix of traffic calmed roads and traffic-free paths (built to Dutch standards) as will be required to make cycling so pleasant and convenient that even the non-cycling British public will do it. CTC/CUK needs to hook into the touring enthusiasm in order to ensure a continued and reliable stream of membership funding, from the one group of cycling enthusiasts who are completely and unreservedly in favour of the infrastructural changes needed to get non cyclists cycling.