Sport Comment: Cycling’s boom makes need for planning urgent

John Inverdale
THE BRITISH sporting landscape is changing fast. There will be a surge, albeit a limited one, in usage of public tennis courts for the next few days, sparked by events at SW19 over the past fortnight. A few more people are kicking a football around on summer evenings imagining they are on the Copacabana. Office conversations will touch on Novak Djokovic and Roger Federer, Costa Rica and Holland.

But did you see those pictures from Yorkshire and the Tour de France? That’s the biggest sporting legacy of the weekend. A tidal wave of men and women inspired by those glorious images and as a consequence discussing getting a bike, how much money they cost and how easy is it to get started? (Answers: a) more than you think, and b) much too.) The main topic of conversation, however, should be safety.

This cycling boom is happening with no governmental thought and planning for the consequences for our transport and traffic systems. It is absolutely no good a peloton of politicians spouting banal comments about how beneficial it is to the nation’s health that so many of us are taking to two wheels as opposed to four. It was not very beneficial to my health last weekend, during a ride round the Surrey Hills, to be in fear of my life on half a dozen occasions as a variety of vehicles came within millimetres of my right pedal. No cyclepath option. No concept of sharing the road, although admittedly bad discipline from cyclists is often every bit as much to blame.

The situation is only going to get worse, so what are we going to do about it? With thousands more cyclists destined for the roads, where is there a coherent nationwide plan about cycle routes for the future? Where is there an enforcible cycling proficiency test as demanding as its driving equivalent? How many birthday presents of bikes will have been suggested this weekend, and yet where is the co-ordinated education policy to enable schoolchildren to learn about the pitfalls and the pleasures of being out on the road? The great and the good, from Sir Chris Hoy to Boris Johnson and Nick Clegg talk a good game, but now is the time to start playing it.

Congratulations to Yorkshire for their vision in taking the Tour to its wondrous countryside. But by ‘eck, you’ve further opened an already cavernous can of worms.

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