Villages in the Yorkshire Dales have been warned not to underestimate the scale of the Tour de France which is expected to cut off some communities when its grand départ passes through the area on July 5 and 6 next year.
According to the Craven Herald, Chief Inspector Simon Lovell told Craven District Council that a big challenge for police with the Tour de France was getting people to understand how big the event will be.
“I don’t think people realise how difficult it will be to get out of some of the villages. People will have to pitch up the night before, or they’re just not going to be watching it,” he said.
People will have to be in place by 6.30am on the day of the race to be sure of a spot by the roadside, he told Craven District Council’s crime and disorder committee. If organisers judge a car along the route to be an obstruction, it will be removed.
He said the Tour was a massive commercial venture that could leave a great legacy for the area, but unless people had seen it, they would have no idea how big it is.
“If you think of the torch relay, this is on a different scale again, and it’s a massive, commercial venture,” he said.
Fortunately, unlike some sporting events, cycling attracts a well-behaved crowd. Chief Inspector Lovell said that while emergency services were drawing up contingency plans for the race, the spectators were less likely to have a “football crowd” mentality.
However councillors raised concerns about large groups of recreational cyclists riding through the area. Craven District includes the southern half of the Yorkshire Dales National Park, and takes in towns including Skipton, Settle and Bolton Abbey that are the traditional gateways for club runs from the nearby cities of Leeds and Bradford.
Councillor David Staveley (Conservative) said that a group of cyclists was like a slow moving vehicle that would require an escort vehicle, while Councillor Ady Green (Conservative), said he had never met a courteous cyclist, and asked why cyclists could not travel in single file.
Chief Inspector Lovell said that cyclists who rode in groups were not breaking the law and did so because it was considered safer.
“Cycle groups are taught to cycle assertively. The simple fact is, if they go in a single line, gaps are created and the mentality of some drivers is they will fill it with their car.”
He said that police asked all road users, including cyclists, to be courteous.
Councillor Andy Solloway (Independent), a car driver and a cyclist, said he was always courteous to drivers and pointed out a cyclist was far more vulnerable than someone in a car.
“Don’t forget, we are extremely privileged to have the Tour de France, they could have gone somewhere else, and if the South can get it right, we can get it right,” he said.
In a previous police comment on cycling in the area, Chief Superintendent Alison Higgins of North Yorkshire Police said that she agreed with Councillor Andy Quinn that cyclists were an increasing problem on roads.
Mr Quinn claimed groups of cyclists were passing through the village of Embsay at 30-40mph. Chief Superintendent Higgins likened cyclists to motorcyclists. They needed to be re-educated, she said, adding “we are aware there is a problem, but it will not change overnight.”
After an outcry from local cyclists, Chief Superintendent Higgins and Craven District Council leader Chris Knowles-Fitton took a more welcoming approach to visiting cyclists.
Chief superintendent Higgins said the police “truly welcomed” cyclists of all abilities and officers were looking forward to the Tour de France stages in North Yorkshire.
She said: “The prestige and support for the event itself guarantees a boost to the local economy. It will also showcase the outstanding beauty of our area as a place to visit and as a prime destination for cycling.”
Mr Knowles-Fitton said: “Craven is long recognised as an ideal area for cycling and has some of the highest cycling participation rates in the country. We welcome the expected increase in cyclists, who, in anticipation of the tour, will no doubt be visiting the district in even greater numbers to cycle the route and adding to the tourist economy.”
In an editorial comment, the Craven Herald agreed with Councillor Solloway.
The paper said: “We firmly believe it’s a great coup for the area – as not only will it be a fantastic spectacle it will also do wonders for the local economy.
“It will also probably inspire a whole new generation of cyclists, and with this comes not only health benefits but also the possibility that Yorkshire will produce yet more Olympic heroes.”
The paper said that people would need to be prepared and keep up to date with plans for the two days of the race.
“Will it be worth all the hassle, cost and disruption?
“Absolutely. This is a once in a lifetime opportunity. It will be the biggest and best advertisement Craven and the Dales will ever have.
“So let’s show the world how we do things.”
Our official grumpy Northerner, John has been riding bikes for over 30 years since discovering as an uncoordinated teen that a sport could be fun if it didn't require you to catch a ball or get in the way of a hulking prop forward.
Road touring was followed by mountain biking and a career racing in the mud that was as brief as it was unsuccessful.
Somewhere along the line came the discovery that he could string a few words together, followed by the even more remarkable discovery that people were mug enough to pay for this rather than expecting him to do an honest day's work. He's pretty certain he's worked for even more bike publications than Mat Brett.
The inevitable 30-something MAMIL transition saw him shift to skinny tyres and these days he lives in Cambridge where the lack of hills is more than made up for by the headwinds.