Tuesday, 8 July 2014

Tour de France

Last weekend, thousands of people lined the roads in Yorkshire and Cambridgeshire to watch the peloton roar through. For only the second time, the Tour de France, cycling’s leading event and perhaps the biggest sporting event in the world, commenced in the UK. Hundreds of cyclists are competing for the famous yellow jersey, travelling across cobbled streets and wind-swept moors.

I know a bit about wind-swept moors, as I was in the Yorkshire Dales recently. The small towns and villages, including  Masham, Leyburn and Hawes, were uncharacteristically colourful, adorned with strings of small woollen yellow jerseys from house to house and lamppost to lamppost. They looked cheerfully quaint and somewhat incongruous. This is evidence of the local enthusiasm for cycling that has developed in northern parts due to the emergence of local heroes, such as Mark Cavendish and Bradley Wiggins. Local knitters have been hard at work decorating the route from the Grand Depart in Leeds, to York and Sheffield. In addition, bright yellow model bicycles adorn shops and public buildings; similar model bicycles have also been seen around Cambridge, where the route continues to London.

Cycling is a very sustainable form of transport. In the UK, CO2 emissions from transport will rise by 35% from 1990-2030, yet much can be done by individuals and communities to reduce that figure. Cycling to school reduces the strain of the school run rush hour. Bicycles can be left at rail stations or carried on trains, and some cities, such as London, have the famous ‘Boris Bikes’.

There is, however, another side. In the UK, 19,000 cyclists are injured or even killed every year. A detailed Welsh survey has just been published, detailing the causes of these injuries and deaths. There are to be 2 billion British pounds of new local growth funds, some of which may go towards cycleways; however, the planning of roads is often prioritised.

In my area a new cycleway will be opened around our local lake; this has involved years of consultation and cost several million pounds. It will be built using local materials and will allow tourists and locals to avoid a busy road, which I would not encourage my children to cycle on right now! The charity, Sustrans, does much to open new routes like this and to promote more sustainable forms of transport. Please visit the website below for useful maps and ways to get involved: www.sustrans.org.uk

Thus, regardless of who rides up to the finish line in the Mall, we should all think about sustainable transport and get pedalling!

Article by David Jackman

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