Le Tour's 'Wimbledon effect' likely to be short-lived
So the UK’s part in the Tour de France has been declared a great success. Millions turned out to watch. And maybe Ken Livingstone’s schoolboy French and inspirational statements will do the trick. Perhaps more people will give up their cars and get on their bikes.
I wish I could believe it. Yet, although the London mayor’s plan to raise the profile of cycling should be supported, I’m not convinced it will be hugely successful. Yes, more people will be getting on their bikes today. And probably tomorrow as well.
But I fear it will just be the equivalent of the Wimbledon effect? Every summer the racquets come out for a few weeks after Wimbledon fortnight, but it’s not long before they’re languishing in the back of a cupboard
Especially when the weather turns.
Potential cycle commuters need more than inspiration. They need decent facilities – somewhere secure to park their bike. Showers, lockers. They need advice about the safest routes between home and the office. Cycle paths which are actually usable. And tax breaks or company-backed loans to buy a bike and equipment.
Most of all they need proper motivation. When I took up cycle commuting it wasn’t because I’d been watching Le Tour. It wasn’t because the weather was nice. It wasn’t because I had some, if not all of the above facilities to help me on my way.
No, it was because I was at the end of my tether after a nightmarish fortnight on the trains. After it took me two hours to get to work I bought a bike with my holiday savings at lunchtime and cycled home.
It was January and I was wearing jeans. I was completely out of shape and after covering 18 miles in two hours (!) I was exhausted for the whole weekend which followed. But because the alternatives were worse I kept pedalling. Traffic levels in our major cities may be at an all time high. Yet I fear the situation will have to get worse before the take up of cycle commuting reaches anywhere near the level Mr Livingstone is hoping for.