Yorkshire Tour de France legacy plans unveiled
- 27 March 2014
- From the section England
Free access to a bike and training to use it, a regional cycle hire network and a new world-class race are the main legacy promises from the organisers of the Tour de France's visit to Yorkshire.
Local authorities across the Yorkshire and Humber region have teamed up with key partners to come up with a 12-year plan to build on the platform the Grand Depart will give cycling as a sport, means of transport and way to keep fit.
The plan, dubbed "Cycle Yorkshire", was launched at Welcome to Yorkshire's annual conference in Harrogate on Thursday, 100 days before the start of Le Tour.
Further details of the legacy plan will follow in the coming months, with an announcement of the much-anticipated legacy bike race, which should visit parts of Yorkshire missed by Le Tour this summer, believed to be imminent.
Gary Verity of the tourism body Welcome to Yorkshire said: "We're going to sign a Memorandum of Understanding with British Cycling and the organisers of the Tour De France for a new race in Yorkshire from 2015 onwards.
"We're very excited about that, we're very excited to have two partners of this calibre to work with us to deliver what we hope will be an ongoing race that will be here a lot longer than I am.
"If it outlives me then that will be fantastic."
What connects this race with all the other initiatives under the "Cycle Yorkshire" umbrella is the goal of matching the cycling revolution London achieved after it hosted the 2007 Grand Depart and 2012 Olympics.
As well as the economic boost from staging those two major events, the capital has witnessed a huge uptake in cycling, which has brought a range of health, social and transport benefits.
Yorkshire is expected to enjoy the lion's share of at least £100m in economic benefits from the 2014 Grand Depart, but the region's leaders are also keen to see more people commuting by bike, riding for fun and fitness, and a major boost in cycling tourism.
According to the latest Department for Transport figures from 2011, 13% of adults in Yorkshire and the Humber ride at least once a month. The legacy plan is to increase that to 16% by 2018, and 18% by 2023.
It is also hoped the number of trips made by bike in each local authority will be a fifth higher in 2023 than in 2012, that the number of competitive and non-competitive events will rise, and that a third of all cycling activity in 2023 will be by women.
And finally, it is hoped that the region's cycling casualty rate stays below the national average for the next 10 years.
What the "Cycle Yorkshire" plan does not mention, however, is money, and it is clear that much of this will depend on current levels of funding, private sponsorship, the voluntary sector and combinations of all three.
A good example of the latter, and a likely template for Welcome to Yorkshire chief executive Gary Verity's "bike bank" scheme, is Streetbikes, a Kirklees-based initiative that uses recycled bikes to teach children how to ride, or get adults riding again.
With an annual budget of just £50,000, Streetbikes has been able to give away 2,500 bikes, train 40 mechanics and teach hundreds of people of all abilities and disabilities how to ride. That budget, most of it from Kirklees Council, Asda and Fujitsu, runs out next March.
That said, there is a huge amount of good work being done across the region, with some leading employers actively encouraging staff to ride to work, award-winning safety campaigns and new infrastructure such as the £29m "cycle superhighway" between Bradford and Leeds, and the £1.1m outdoor velodrome at York Sport Village.
The trick will be to pull all this together into a coherent plan of action so that Yorkshire's Grand Depart is remembered as more than just a weekend of good sport and global attention.