Cycling clubs joined councillors and the national governing body for cycling British Cycling yesterday to herald the start of work on the closed road cycle track next to Ennerdale Leisure Centre in north Hull.
The track, which will snake round ground next to the leisure centre, will be open and accessible to all abilities - from people intimidated from riding on the open road to clubs taking part in races.
Will Wallace, from British Cycling, which is providing a £375,000 grant, said: “The beauty of the road circuit is that it can be used for any type of bike, from mountain bike, to BMX to road bikes. Hull Council wants to develop cycling.
“There’s been a massive interest in road cycling as a sport over the last few years, particularly with the Grand Depart in 2014 and the success with the Tour de France. Yorkshire as a region has recently been awarded 2019 Road World Championships, jointly between British Cycling, Welcome to Yorkshire and UK Sport - and that is going to be huge.
“People are seeing it on TV more and they are seeing it live as spectators. This is about having a safe space. It’s traffic free, it hasn’t all the street furniture you’d find on the road. There are no kerb or pillar boxes or other road users.”
The new track, the only one of its kind in East Yorkshire, will open next August. Lit by street lights, it will be slightly wider than a normal road, and include loops, on which people with disabilities and youngsters can train. People will be able to hire bikes from the leisure centre.
Day to day it will be used by schools and recreationally, while between April and September it will be employed as a road racing track. At the moment, local clubs are having travel to York or Wakefield to use facilities there.
“People won’t have to travel outside Hull and you’d expect people to come to Hull,” said Mr Wallace. “It will become part of a regional network of facilities.”
Neil Dean from Hull Thursday Road Club - which has one of the sport’s bright young prospects, 13-year-old Finlay Pickering - said he hoped the new track would spur on more youngsters to take up cycling.
He said: “I hope it’s going to get more kids into racing. There are far too many distractions for youngsters now and less opportunities because traffic is so much heavier.”
The city’s newest club, Kingswood Cycling Club, only started in September and now has 213 members, and co-founder Mike Meanwell said: “Today is a big step for the community and everyone who enjoys cycling, It gives people an opportunity to cycle throughout the winter on a purposely-built track.”
The project aims to increase take-up in the sport in Hull, which ranks fifth in the top 15 most inactive local authority areas nationally. Only 33.3 per cent of adults and 35.1 per cent of 14 to 15-year-olds take part in 30 minutes of activity a week. However, above average numbers of people take part in cycling.
Coun Danny Brown, chairman of Hull Council’s health and social well-being overview and scrutiny commission, said: “It wasn’t that long ago there were rumours Ennerdale was closing. It is a well-used facility and this just cements the future for the leisure centre.”