On yer bike! Exclusive lifestyle practices in countryside space

This source preferred by Katherine King

Authors: King, K.

Start date: 17 July 2012

In the UK, a government health agenda to encourage active lifestyles has identified young people as a target group for whom regular physical activity can help to prevent health problems, but whose participation in active forms of sport and leisure is low. Several national initiatives, alongside a commitment to an Olympic sporting legacy has seen the rise of state managed leisure destinations which place inclusivity at the centre of their objectives and seek to create a 'culture' of physical activity in youth. In light of similar governmental priorities to address declining youth participation in countryside recreation and a commitment to provide an 'outdoors for all' (DEFRA 2008), some developments have focused on provision for outdoor recreation. Olympic sports such as mountain biking which are reliant on rural environments, therefore represent a significant opportunity to leverage participation.

This paper presents the findings of qualitative research with young people who participated in mountain biking at a state run site in south east England which benefitted from Sport England funding to encourage active lifestyles amongst youth groups. The paper will explore some of the barriers to accessing countryside spaces for young people who seek opportunities to participate in active forms of leisure, and the methods employed to overcome these challenges. In addition the paper will examine the internal sporting politics of youth mountain biking groups arguing whilst many have benefited from investment in provision for mountain biking, sporting tensions between rival youth groups and spatial politics around localism may result in some young people being excluded from accessing and participating in such schemes. In doing so it will contribute to debates over the politics of exclusivity in lifestyle sports and raise important issues for the management of leisure spaces which engender a commitment to inclusivity and are intending to appeal to a mix of social groups.

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