With close to two million people having lined the region’s streets, country lanes and hills for this year’s Tour de Yorkshire, it is emphatically clear that the passion and pride that God’s Own County has for the sport of cycling is showing no signs of diminishing any time soon.
The recent travails at Welcome to Yorkshire, combined with the announcement that Ineos was to sponsor the former Team Sky, had led to some naysayers focusing on the negatives as this year’s race preparations got into full swing.
However, for the overwhelming majority of those who watched the race in person or on television, the four-day event was nothing less than an unmitigated celebration of both the sport and the colossal civic pride that exists in Yorkshire.
Now established in the sport’s calendar, the Tour de Yorkshire has now firmly cemented the legacy that the Grand Depart of the Tour de France began for this region just over five years ago.
Events like the tour and the upcoming UCI Road World Championships show that Yorkshire is a master at staging grand sporting events.
A large part of this excellence comes from the secret ingredient that is the Yorkshire spirit, something that guarantees vast and devoted crowds at every stage.
Having this kind of weapon in the region’s arsenal is clearly beneficial for the economy.
The warm and welcoming atmosphere is great optics for the county, something which cannot fail to help with inward investment potential.
As someone who speaks to employers regularly, I know well of the challenge they face in terms of attracting the best talent. All too often I hear that once people actually get here they quickly understand the vast benefits that living and working in the county can bring to their career prospects, experience and quality of life.
Bridging that gap always seems to be the challenge. The tour just may well be the best means we have right now of doing so.
And then there is the internal effect that cycling has had on us as a region.
As a long-term cycling enthusiast I have enjoyed seeing more and more people out and about on two wheels.
My commute to work is more often than not done on two wheels and I have many more companions today than I did five years ago. The proliferation of cycling shops manifest clearly that this is a growing movement.
As well as this micro benefit to the economy, encouraging more people out of their cars and on to bikes has a more profound impact.
No sane person enjoys sitting in traffic for 60 minutes moving at 5mph. It is a soul destroying way to begin your working day and is extremely unlikely to have you in good spirits when you do arrive.
Compare this with a cycle journey.
You are energised, alert and raring to go for the day.
You are fitter and healthier from the experience, and not contributing to the congestion and pollution that road travel causes.
Now I am not so naïve as to suggest all of Yorkshire’s working population abandon their cars and head out on bikes each day.
For some the commute is too long to be practical. Plenty of people will have legitimate physical and mental reasons for not wishing to cycle to work. All of this cannot be argued with.
However, there are many changes that employers can implement to make it more palatable for people to consider this. I believe that all employers with staff levels above a certain level should provide shower and change facilities for commuters, along with safe and secure storage for bicycles.
The more challenging change comes in our infrastructure. Our towns and cities are not safe enough for cyclists and too often measures to improve this at local authority level actually make the situation worse. I would not recommend the cycle lanes in Leeds to anyone, to use my own local example.
If we truly are to live up to the mantle of being the Cycling Capital of Europe, as the great Belgian cyclist Eddy Merckx has dubbed us, then we need to make the sport accessible and safe for all.