Tue 20 Feb 2018
Few clubs cater for fans who choose to cycle to the ground, but simple changes could help reduce traffic jams and pollution on match days
I am a football fan and I am a cyclist. These identities do not need to be mutually exclusive – so why is it often such a challenge to go to the game by bike?
I support Norwich City and I live in Liverpool, which is the first hurdle. Liverpool is 238 miles away from Norwich, and the direct train takes more than five hours. Because of this, I have pretty much given up on home games.
But I do love away games, and often go by train and bike, or car and bike. Norwich sometimes sell out their ticket allocation, so for the last three seasons I have bought an away season ticket to guarantee me access. Getting to a Tuesday evening game in Middlesbrough isn’t the easiest journey whatever the form of transport, but why should cycling some of the way add to the problems?
My final match of last season was at Leeds. There are some decent cycle lanes there and I cheerfully cycled between the city centre and my accommodation in Headingley, but once I set off to Elland Road I saw no cycle route signs at all.
On my way to Millwall, I thought cycling across London would be easier but the journey from Camberwell was tricky and the I couldn’t find any bike parking facilities at Millwall.
And although there is walking and cycling signage to Bolton Wanderers’ Macron Stadium, I took my life into my own hands trying to cycle there on the busy roads and ended up locking my bike to a nearby lamp-post outside the ground.
A notable exception is Brighton and Hove Albion, who have one of the newer stadiums that take cycling seriously. Although the Amex is a little way out of town, it is very well signposted and has proper cycle parking. When I visited there last season, I even found some home fans to cycle in with. Bristol City also deserve a mention; their website lists directions to get the the ground by bike, and provides parking when you get there.
As I get older, my knees are getting worse and covering the final few miles by bike saves so much trouble whether I go by train or car. For many home fans, cycling could be the easiest option, but few clubs cater in any meaningful way for those who do choose to cycle to the match.
It doesn’t have to be this way. In July, I went to Tilburg in the Netherlands to watch the England women’s team play Portugal. I borrowed a bike from my Airbnb host, and found I could ride easily to the ground thanks to good signage. The only hassle was queuing to get my bike back afterwards as the park was so crowded; about 5-10% of the 3,300 fans in attendance travelled by bike. Uefa even incentivised fans and staff to cycle with a smartphone app.