Matt’s View: Tour de France should get on its bike

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Sunday, July 6, 2014
8:57 AM

Anyone planning a trip into Cambridge tomorrow (Monday) should be prepared to be greeted by a sea of lycra.

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Because, as you may have heard, the Tour de France is in town, with stage three kicking off in the city before progressing towards London via some of the picturesque parts of Essex.

The presence of Le Tour has caused much excitement, with many schools and businesses closing for the day so that their staff can a) avoid the chaos caused by closed roads, and b) enjoy the fun of the day.

But personally I am struggling to get excited about what is apparently a big event for the region.

Firstly, because as far as I’m concerned, the race shouldn’t be here at all. The clue is in the name; Tour de France. If England wants its own big cycle race it should just arrange one and not try and nick bits of another country’s.

As well as this, I’m not really down with all the schools shutting their doors and giving their pupils a day off.

I’ve heard a lot of people saying how it will be a “great experience” and a “once in a lifetime” opportunity to see these cyclists in action, as if the Tour de France usually takes place on some alien planet, rather than a short train journey away just across the English Channel.

If you’re that interested, it’s not that difficult to go there and see it, and you’ll certainly get a more authentic experience than watching some novelty stage in the shadow of King’s College Chapel.

I don’t have any children, but if I did I’d much prefer they were at school learning stuff than standing on the streets watching some bikes blur past. As most of you will know, you can do that in Cambridge at pretty much any time. And that’s before you even think about those parents who are at work and have to arrange alternative childcare.

Reading this little rant, you may have the impression that I’m quite anti-cycling, but nothing could be further from the truth. I’ve ridden a bike since I was a child and still use mine wherever I can. But I just think the time, effort and cash that has been put into sorting out this event could have been better spent improving facilities for cyclists who are out on their bikes every day.

The good work of the A10 Corridor Cycle Campaign has highlighted the need for a safer, more modern route between Royston and Cambridge, and I’m sure it’s a story which is repeated elsewhere.

Let’s hope the legacy of the Tour de France’s visit will be continued investment in infrastructure, and it won’t just be a one-off event that’s quickly forgotten.

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