Tour de France – Monday 7 July 2014

This article was published in 2013, in Newsletter 109.

Cambridgeshire County Council organised a summit to discuss how to take cycling forward in Cambridgeshire, in order to build a lasting legacy from hosting the third stage of next year’s Grand Départ.

The event was held at an excellent school in Swavesey. Excellent because they had done a lot to promote cycling, building a cycle racing track on expanded playing fields and encouraging both pupils and staff to ride.

But I found the event itself rather muddled. What was clear was that the world’s biggest annual sporting event will start its third day from Parker’s Piece, the riders and their massive caravan of motor vehicles having driven down from the previous day’s finish in Harrogate, along with 400,000 spectators.

Cripes, it’s really happening, what are we going to do about it?

At the event 200 delegates from a mix of pupils, sporting organisations, city and county councillors and officers and cycling activists gathered to come up with answers. The sports cyclists shone, their time has come.

What didn’t shine was any sense of how the county or city might want to celebrate all this. Yorkshire wanted the tour so badly they’re offsetting any costs Cambridgeshire will incur. Thus with no financial stake, and probably very little say in how it will be spent, I really struggled to work out how the Campaign could contribute.

Science is Cambridge’s fame and the city doesn’t really need the hassle of dealing with the crowds to bring it any more attention. Suggestions of closing roads for the day to have a Tour de Cambridge or Cambridgeshire met a strongly negative response from some of the councillors and officers whose workshop session I shared. Instead, the summit started talking about the legacy – longer-term strategies for developing cycling in the county. A chance for the Campaign to assert once again the desire for high-quality off-road provision, and in this we were supported by Ely Cycling Campaign who want the same sort of thing there. With a reluctant city, and Yorkshire deciding how money will be spent for the day of the event itself, I think all we can look forward to is: filling of the potholes on the route between Parker’s Piece and the county boundary, and an early departure for riders on the day, so that Cambridge will be back to normal by 10am, focussing on winning more Nobel prizes.

Simon Nuttall