A CYCLING revolution is on the horizon for Kendal as an ambitious project to significantly bolster biking activity nears completion.
One of the architects of the move claims it has the potential to see the town become a national leading cycling hub with businesses expected to benefit financially from a tourism boom.
Most of the cogs of the plan are already in place, but Cumbria County Council (CCC) now needs to be convinced to release crucial funding before the final go-ahead is given.
"Cycling is one of the fastest growing tourism markets. There is huge potential and Kendal isn't taking advantage of it at present," said Brian Harrison, director of Kendal BID (Business Improvement District), which takes an annual levy from local businesses and ploughs the money back into the economy for their benefit.
"From a BID point of view it is about trying to attract more people into town but it is also about promoting a habit change to make people healthier and reduce emissions."
The venture includes:
l creating a park and cycle hire hub at Kendal Leisure Centre
l embracing market leading technology to improve tourist information
1 assisting people with disabilities to participate in cycling
l developing changing rooms and bike racks in Westmorland Shopping Centre's car park
1 creating a post graduate position to manage the facilities
Mr Harrison estimated if the first stage of the three phase project was started from scratch it would cost close to £250,000 but because of a partnership with North Country Leisure, the operators of Kendal Leisure Centre, it will cost a fraction of that price.
He said CCC had £140,000 earmarked for the promotion of cycling in Kendal and that he has now written to a senior executive at the authority to ask for advice on how to successfully dip into the pot to secure a £16,000 grant.
A CCC spokesperson confirmed no formal request for cash has been made but initial discussions have taken place.
He added: "We would need to be convinced that it offered value for money and met our objectives of promoting cycling as a sustainable form of travel before agreeing that this should be part of the countywide strategy for developing cycling infrastructure."
The money would be used pay for bike racks and for the creation of office space at the leisure centre on Burton Road.
Tourists and commuters will be able to leave their cars at the base before hiring a bike to either travel into work or for leisure.
Derek Jones, contracts manager at NCL, said: "We are in an ideal location right next to the old canal path while being in between Oxenholme and the town centre."
Kendal BID has dedicated £20,000 to pay for bikes - including rickshaws, electrics and tandems - which will allow disabled people to enjoy cycling on the town's existing paths.
Initially there will be 40 bikes to hire but Mr Harrison promised more would be bought if the scheme proved popular.
He added the cost of renting the bikes would be set by NCL but that it would be low and that the money made would help make the scheme 'self-supporting'.
Other plans include adding changing rooms and racks to the bottom floor car park of the Westmorland Shopping Centre and using cutting-edge technology to offer cyclists a tourism guide to local cultural, sport and historic attractions on their mobile phones.
Cllr Sue Sanderson, SLDC portfolio holder for Environment and People, said: "As a council we have a commitment to support local partners with cycling strategies that not only benefit the environment and the health and wellbeing of residents, but in this case could also provide a boost to business."
Caroline Gilbert, recreation manager for British Cycling, said: “With cycling participation increasing all over the UK and inspiring moments like Chris Froome’s recent victory in the Tour de France, we are seeing more and more people wanting to get around by bike for leisure and commuting.
"It's very encouraging that local businesses and public sector organisations are working together with the aim of making it easier for people to get around by bike. Catering for local and visiting cyclists has many positive effects - for businesses, for our health, and by making places great to live in, work in and visit."
Burneside's Edward Acland, a former district and county councillor who campaigned for better cycling facilities, said: "The more we can encourage people to shift from car to bike the greater the benefit for the town, congestion and pollution.
"It is not until people get on their bikes that they discover how significantly their lives can be improved. It is less stressful and much more convenient."
Phase two would see a feasibility study produced to provide online cycle reservation with collection at Oxenholme and Kendal railway stations and to investigate the possibility of a second cycle parking and cycle hire facility at the Windermere Road entrance to Kendal.
Phase three could lead to secure cycle cages being placed in the town centre for long stay cycle parking while also supporting the development of the old canal route south of Kendal for bikers.