The very different legacies of Le Tour de France 2014
It’s hard to believe that a year has passed since Le Tour de France came to the UK. Doesn’t time fly? Remember last July – those fabulous days of the first stages of Le Tour de France 2014, when the country went cycling mad?
Like many many others we made the pilgrimage to Yorkshire, and we were one of the very first cyclists to set up off Cragg Vale when the road closed at 6am on the morning of the second stage. With four children in our group aged between 4 and 9, we were all going to be going at various paces and I teamed up with my 5 year old son T, for the long hard slog up the longest continual incline in England (5.2 miles).
T is one really determined young man and he was not going to let the fact he was on a mountain bike with 20″ wheels stop him from taking on the MAMILs on their carbon fibre road bikes.
As we progressed slowly but steadily up the hill we got so much encouragement from the spectators setting up their pitches, and the other riders, who would call out encouragement as they passed the tiny figure pedalling with such determination. When it got particularly steep at one point a lovely guy stopped to tell us that it got slightly easier if he could just pedal past that line in the distance. Another man said he’d give him a chocolate bar at the top. You can imagine T’s disappointment when we got to the top to find several hundred spectators already in position (and not a chocolate bar in sight), even though it was before 9am!
Both my boys still talk regularly about that day – it’s a source of such pride to them both that they cycled up Cragg Vale and it’s really helped at times of difficultly to remind them of their achievement. A really worthwhile emotional legacy that will stay with them their whole life.
Of course there is the sporting legacy of the 2014 Tour, with the inaugural Le Tour de Yorkshire taking place earlier this year. We took the boys back to Yorkshire to watch the race, marvelling once more at the speed and skill of the cyclists, and the huge organisational effort that goes into a major race.
But what’s the practical legacy from Le Tour de France for my boys and the millions of other children around the country who were inspired that weekend last year? Are they any closer to being able to cycle safely to school every day? Can they now ride to the swimming pool, the park or their friends house?
Can we, as parents, cycle to work in the towns and cities of the UK without worrying whether we’ll make it home in the evening to see our kids? Is cycling, which was centre stage in both 2012 and 2014, a major political issue here and now in 2015?
Of course it’s not – and it takes national campaigns like Sustrans, CTC and Pedal on Parliament , and local cycling campaigns such as London Cycling Campaign and Newcastle Cycling Campaign to keep cycling on the political agenda during the recent election campaign and into the new government.
Progress is being made, and for parents like myself with young children who are just starting out on their cycling adventures, it would be wonderful if the legacy of the 2014 Tour de France coming to Britain is a nation that finally wakes up and realises that cycling could become a key way to improve our cities, the health of our children and our environment. Now, that would be a legacy!
This article was first published on 25th April 2015, prior to the first Le Tour de Yorkshire, and has been slightly amended to reflect the start of Le Tour de France 2015.
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