Tour de France does little for the cycling cause

As Le Grand Départ turns into Le Grand Au Revoir and the Tour de France cyclists and their huge accompanying caravan return to France, the predictable self-congratulation from politicians and sporting organisations has begun. They claim that the Tour will provide a fantastic boost for cycling in the UK that will be felt for years. 
Sadly they are wrong. There is no evidence that the triumphs of the British cycling team at the 2012 Olympics or the Tour’s visit to London seven years ago have done anything to increase interest in cycling as a means of transport rather than as a sport. 
The Tour has almost no impact on non-sporting cycling in France. In Paris cycling has a 3 per cent “modal share” (the percentage of travellers using a particular type of transport), better than London’s 2 per cent but way behind Amsterdam’s 38 per cent or Copenhagen’s 26 — and both growing. It suggests that three weeks of Tour mania topped by a finish on the capital’s streets does little to promote bikes as an alternative to driving or taking the bus. 
At a Franco-British Council conference on ways to get more people into the saddle, held in London last week, French campaigners for better cycling facilities were not just sceptical about the Tour, but downright hostile. As one put it: “The Tour is accompanied by more vehicles than there are competitors and when they ask hosting towns to make arrangements for their arrival, they are only interested in creating facilities for cars and lorries.” He added that there is never any improvement in cycling facilities in the towns and cities visited by the Tour. 
The French do not even have a word for recreational or commuter cycling. Cyclisme means cycle-racing. The culture of competitive cycling runs far deeper than in the UK, as can be seen by the hordes of yellow jerseys seen on country roads on any French Sunday morning. But these riders would no more think of using their bikes rather than their Peugeots to get to work than they would eat corn flakes rather than a croissant for breakfast. 
Rather than seeing an annual race as the way to boost cycle use, we need political leadership, long-term investment and a healthy budget. It may sound pedestrian but that, rather than the glitz of a big sporting event, is the way to achieve change.
  • Charlie Hulme

    Car drivers maybe see the Tour, try cycling and immediately decide the roads are too hazardous and stressful. Which is true. More dedicated routes are needed. But as an everyday utility cyclist I do enjoy The Tour!

  • David Robjant

    Well said.

  • Simon Geller

    It was quite depressing getting on my bike to cycle to work on Monday, seeing the traffic jams back on the main roads and realising the party was over! There is some money for legacy work in Yorkshire which hopefully will have some impact.

  • Kevin ‘Herbie’ Blackburn

    Just seen two 10-year old Charlotteville CC girls riding their pukka racing bikes up our road – that would have been unheard of before the 2012 Olympics or the Tour coming to Britain – what do you know Christian!

  • This is a subject close to my heart, The Active Travel Act in Wales was moved from the Minister for Transport to Culture Sport and Leisure. At the launch last year we heard from people talking about mountain bike routes in Mid Wales and the success of our Olympic cyclists but nobody talking about how to get kids on bikes to ride to school. If our politicians were really serious about cycling they’d get on a ferry to Holland and look at how it’s really done!

  • Paul Holt

    CW is curiously silent on the subject of potholes. Locals noted that the Tour route had all its potholes repaired. An obscured pothole can damage cars but kill cyclists, so I would have expected CW to want road repairs accelerating.

  • Paul Holt

    Then there is the sexist and patronising Meg Hillier with her pootle lanes.

  • bowwow rapha

    Are you still cycling along and reading the Gourdian and a similar time?

  • Paul Holt
  • Paul Holt

    And now a pothole has seriously injured Olympian Dani King:

  • Paul Holt

    2015 Tour de Yorkshire ( is a direct consequence of Le Grand Depart in 2014.

  • Paul Holt
  • Paul Holt

    London has given away right to open 2017 Tour de France:

  • Paul Holt

    …which, ultimately, cost her a place in the Rio 2016 squad.