Cycling in Britain appears in the news more than it should. There is always a new story about a cyclist being killed on the road, stories from cyclists about being shouted abuse at, many even wear helmet cameras just in case of an incident. Road cyclists aren’t a favourite of motorists in cities like London and Manchester, and even smaller and more rural places like Lancaster.
I started writing this post about how successful the first two stages of Le Tour De France was in Yorkshire, and whether attitudes would change upon cycling in the UK.
I saved it as a draft and went out on my bike, and now I’ve deleted it and changed the focus of the post because nothing has changed what-so-ever.
During the short loop of 22 miles I did, included being beeped at and shouted at more than once and, being called an “effing moron” just for cycling.
The first incident was coming over the bridge at the beginning of Lancaster’s one way system. There were two of us riding single file and sticking to our left side of the road so cars could pass. Then a car beeps at us and shouts out of the window at us to “move out of the way”. Move to where? We were already as far into the left side of the road as was possible.
To my delight, about 100yds ahead, the traffic lights turned to red and he stopped. So I did the obvious thing and stopped about two metres in front of him and waited for the lights to turn to green. When they finally did, I rode very slowly in front of the car at about 13mph until he angrily sped off into the left lane.
We carried on going up through town, and about half a mile from where the incident with the taxi driver occurred, we were called “f***ing morons” as we cycled up the one-way system, bearing in mind it has two lanes, nobody was in the other lane and we were again, riding single file and on the left side of the road. This one infuriated me even more because I couldn’t get revenge. However, it did fuel me with anger to pedal up the Lancaster Royal Grammar School hill pretty quick. I am still Queen of the Mountain on that category four climb.
With over two and half million people lining the streets of Yorkshire over the weekend to watch Le Grande Départ, it was said that it was one of the best departs of Le Tour De France, and is likely that it will return to the UK in the coming years.
The race director Christan Prudhomme said:
“I can see the Tour in their hearts, and in their eyes. For that, I say thank you to everyone in Yorkshire who has made this Grand Depart so very, very special.”
It was also noted that it wasn’t just local people that turned up to watch the professionals whizz past, people from all over the country came to watch. The peloton even had to stop part-way up Buttertubs pass due to the volume of people and lack of road space. After the success of London 2012, more people started cycling and realised the benefits of schemes like Ride2Work and used it as an incentive to cycle:
Mark Brown, Head of Ride2Work at Evans Cycles, said: “The big stat we had was of that from July to August we saw 150% increase in people joining from the same period in 2011.” (Cycling Weekly 2013)
Over the weekend, more people certainly got out on their bikes in Yorkshire, as roads closed to cars at 6am on the morning of the stages and the only way to get around was on foot or by pedalling. As I cycled up Buttertubs at 9:30, the peloton was not due to be passing until 2pm, and people were already getting themselves a spot on the hill.
The success of the Tour in Yorkshire was a celebration of cycling, and many turned up on their best bikes in their best club and team kit.
More and more people support cycling, if not do it themselves. London 2012 sparked enthusiasm and inspiration in many to take up sport, whether it was doing their first triathlon, or going to play football. London 2012 was a success due to the smooth running of the events, and also the support and interest of so many proud British people, proud to support Team GB and proud to have the Olympic and Paralympic Games in their country.
If well respected events like the Olympic and Paralympics, Le Tour De France and so many others can’t change peoples attitudes towards cyclists, what will?
My question is, with so many people from across the UK turning up to watch and support the Tour, as well as more and more of the UK’s population beginning to cycle themselves, why are cyclists still hated on the roads in Britain?