This week the route for the Leeds leg of the Tour de France has been announced and my street has been resurfaced. Coincidence?
Well, yes it is. The Tour de France is not coming through South Leeds despite our helpful route suggestions on this week’s poll. The “Grand Depart” will head north from the city centre and then navigate the beautiful scenery of the Yorkshire Dales.
I do understand that in the big picture Leeds and Yorkshire want to use the Tour de France to attract visitors. Clearly Wensleydale is much prettier than Belle Isle Circus, but it seems a shame that Wiggo and co won’t sprinkle some cycling magic our way. Part of London’s Olympic legacy was to get people out their West End comfort zone and into the unfashionable East End. I guess the Tour moves too fast to have such an effect, they’d be through the area in seconds, but still …
Perhaps if Lance Armstrong was still racing he’d have appreciated the access to dodgy pharmaceuticals? Best not go there …
I’m glad that the Tour will show off the Dales to the world. And I hope it will encourage more locals to visit them too. I took a group of miners from Hemsworth up to Ingleton during the 1984 strike and was shocked that many of them had never seen the Dales. At New Bewerley Community School we have a week’s trip every year for Year 6 pupils that takes in Malham Cove, Ingleton waterfalls and the stepping stones at Bolton Abbey – surely every Yorkshire-child’s heritage.
I cycle quite a lot myself, but I’m a cyclist of necessity, rather than inclination. I’ve got very lazy in recent months, but my other half’s new job has greatly reduced my access to the car. This is a good thing. I feel good about cycling and, like walking, it keeps you closer to nature. For example, I used to think it always rains in Leeds until I started cycling to work most days, then I realised it actually doesn’t rain that often and even rainy days generally have some dry spells.
Of course cycling is not all plain sailing, if you’ll let me mix my metaphors. Getting cut up by motorists is an occupational hazard. “How did you not see my reflective gear and lights?” I wailed impotently at a young motorist this week. I was struck (not literally I’m pleased to say) that stopping your car just in time is a minor irritation for a motorist, but a near death experience for a cyclist.
Another hazard is navigating potholes and other obstacles. The dilemma of choosing between a bump or risking a puncture from broken glass has been eased by buying “puncture-proof” tyres. I was sceptical at first, but they use Kevlar – the stuff they put in bullet proof vests – and it works.
Potholes and badly parked cars are a pain, but they do slow down cars, a bit like unofficial speed bumps. The problem with newly resurfaced roads is that drivers tend to speed up on them.
I generally choose back roads and cycle paths where I can. A few years ago I had a lovely break on the Yorkshire Dales Cycleway. Four days circumnavigating the Yorkshire Dales National Park on quiet back roads and climbing unbelievably steep hills. Incidentally the Tour will be following a section of that route down Swaledale from Muker to Reeth. The rest of the Tour’s routes seems to be on A roads.
In South Leeds there is very good route from Middleton to the city centre which follows the Middleton Railway and the riverside path. It’s one of a dozen published routes around the city.
So I think two and half cheers for Leeds City Council this week. Well done for bringing the Tour to Yorkshire, good work on promoting safe cycle routes in the city and thanks (probably) for resurfacing my street.
Join me next Friday for more views from South of the River.