USING the enthusiasm for cycling generated by the Tour de France is hoped to create a lasting two-wheeled legacy in Yorkshire.
But the once-in-a-lifetime bid to capitalise on the world’s greatest cycle race coming to our region, and Britain as a whole, could well be missed according to Olympic legend and British Cycling (BC) policy advisor Chris Boardman.
With less than 100 days until the Grand Depart begins in Yorkshire on July 5, Boardman, whose 1992 individual pursuit Olympic gold medal inspired a generation of riders, believes the Government is yet to recognise cycling as a “grown up form of transport” and is treating its future as a “charity” by offering up short-term lump sums without long-term assurances.
He claims Government chiefs refused to set targets for increasing cycling in the UK, or to commit any long-term funds to improving cycling safety when he presented BC’s ChooseCycling manifesto to the Commons Transport Select Committee in February.
When asked if Le Tour could be a missed opportunity to spark a cycling legacy in Britain, he said: “It’s quite possible. If there is no action you can’t expect a reaction – you have got to do something if you want change.
“It’s fundamental, it’s culture change. Cycling and walking are often not the easiest solution and while that’s the case people will choose otherwise to get around.”
He said the Government is failing to back up the Prime Minister’s words that funding would start a “cycling revolution”, as its lack of enduring commitment “doesn’t give the local authorities confidence to support and invest”.
Boardman said that cycling in Yorkshire on the whole has actually decreased over the past 10 years, with only the likes of Leeds and Sheffield seeing recent increases as they have invested in infrastructure.
The ChooseCycling plan highlighted Cambridge University research, which found the NHS would save £250m-a-year if just one in 10 journeys nationally were made by bicycle.
It urged Government to treat the sport more seriously through increasing spending to £10 per head on ensuring 10 per cent of trips were made by bike by 2025.
Boardman explained that such investment in riding – less than is being spent in the Netherlands – has helped increase the numbers getting on their bikes in places like New York in recent years.
He said: “The Government have given me no indication to be confident at all. At the moment cycling is not being treated as a grown up form of transport.
“There is no standing order, it is a lump of cash and in two years time they might not give another lump of cash.”
He added: “Bringing the Tour de France to Britain just gives us a real shop window and if you can link up that commitment behind it we can revolutionise transport in the UK.”
A Department for Transport spokesman said: “Getting people to use bikes is an absolute priority for this Government and that is why we have already invested £278m in cycling.”
He said the Government has made a commitment to “cycle-proof our strategic road network” and it hopes local authorities will do the same.