Tour de France: Britain is no 'two-wheeled paradise', French journalists claim

 

Tour de France excitement may be reaching fever point in Yorkshire but the view of the preparations from the country that invented the race is laced with a characteristic froideur.

Journalists dispatched across the Channel to observe the Grand Depart in Leeds have criticised efforts to promote safe cycling in Britain whilst accusing the host country of preferring cricket and being blasé over the success of Chris Froome, who won the race last year.

Influential regional newspaper La Voix Du Nord said the UK was far from being a “two-wheeled paradise” that could rank alongside continental cycle havens.

Acknowledging the extraordinary excitement surrounding the race, which will be waved off by the Prince William, the Duchess of Cambridge and Prince Harry, it said that “on the street, England is not yet the country of bicycles”.

“The cycle paths are there, but you have to look for them. Bikes don't blossom at every cross roads, and they certainly don't get the right of way. More than one Briton in two doesn't feel safe on a bike on the busy roads,” it said.

“The British Government isn't the only one that should be making greater efforts. Maybe the Tour will lend a helping hand,” it added.

British Cycling, the national body for the sport, said it agreed with the French journalist’s observations on bike safety.

It urged the Government to invest at least £10 per head to improve cycling conditions at roads and junctions. Among the areas it is calling for urgent improvement is the Headrow in Leeds where the peloton will begin the processional stage of the race, where it wants a 40 per cent reduction in car traffic and the introduction of a 20mph speed limit.

Campaigns manager Martin Key said: “The arrival of the Tour de France in Britain this weekend will inspire thousands of people to get on a bike but unfortunately many will find that the reality of cycling on the roads just isn’t a pleasant experience.”

The coalition says it has invested more per annum in cycling than any other UK Government and last year announced an extra £114m to improve road conditions.

But Tony Russell, national transport engineering manager for the cycling charity Sustrans, said France and Britain had similarly patchy records.

“France is not one of the countries you would think of like the Netherlands or Denmark as being leaders. There are places in France such as Strasbourg and Nantes which are very innovative and a lot has been done in Paris. But you could say the same in Britain. There are some good places – Cambridge Bristol and London – but there are an awful lot that pretty abysmal,” he said.

A Department for Transport spokesman said: "Cycling isn't just great exercise, it has wider benefits for the environment and the economy, which is why we are committed to ensuring more people feel safe enough to use two wheels."

Meanwhile, Le Monde questioned whether the British could ever truly learn to love cycling and questioned why Froome’s success had failed to capture the public imagination in the same way that Sir Bradley Wiggins had a year earlier and that the rider was unlikely to be knighted like his Sky teammate.

“The British are blasé given the glut of sporting trophies accumulated since the London Olympics in the summer of 2012,” it said.

“Sure the newspapers owned by Rupert Murdoch dedicate numerous pages to the hero of the day. The news-loving magnate is the biggest shareholder in the BSkyB satellite chain, sponsor of the triumphant Sky Team. But if The Times offers a mini special edition of three pages on the Tour, the cricket gets five pages,” it concluded.

The last Frenchman to win the Tour was Bernard Hinault in 1985 - a five times victor in the race. The continuing failure has dented national pride in a country whose attention has been gripped in recent days by the progress of its national football team in the  World Cup.

Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
Caption competition
Caption competition
Latest stories from i100
Daily Quiz
Independent Dating
and  

By clicking 'Search' you
are agreeing to our
Terms of Use.

iJobs Job Widget
iJobs General

Recruitment Genius: Bookkeeper / Office Co-ordinator

£9 per hour: Recruitment Genius: This role is based within a small family run ...

Recruitment Genius: Designer - Print & Digital

£28000 - £32000 per annum: Recruitment Genius: This Design and marketing agenc...

Recruitment Genius: Quantity Surveyor

£46000 per annum: Recruitment Genius: This property investment firm are lookin...

Recruitment Genius: Telesales / Telemarketing Executive - OTE £30k / £35k plus

£18000 - £35000 per annum: Recruitment Genius: This company specialises provid...

The difference between America and Israel? There isn’t one

The difference between America and Israel? There isn’t one

Netanyahu knows he can get away with anything in America, says Robert Fisk
Families clubbing together to build their own affordable accommodation

Do It Yourself approach to securing a new house

Community land trusts marking a new trend for taking the initiative away from developers
Head of WWF UK: We didn’t send Cameron to the Arctic to see green ideas freeze

David Nussbaum: We didn’t send Cameron to the Arctic to see green ideas freeze

The head of WWF UK remains sanguine despite the Government’s failure to live up to its pledges on the environment
Author Kazuo Ishiguro on being inspired by shoot-outs and samurai

Author Kazuo Ishiguro on being inspired by shoot-outs and samurai

Set in a mythologised 5th-century Britain, ‘The Buried Giant’ is a strange beast
With money, corruption and drugs, this monk fears Buddhism in Thailand is a ‘poisoned fruit’

Money, corruption and drugs

The monk who fears Buddhism in Thailand is a ‘poisoned fruit’
America's first slavery museum established at Django Unchained plantation - 150 years after slavery outlawed

150 years after it was outlawed...

... America's first slavery museum is established in Louisiana
Kelly Clarkson: How I snubbed Simon Cowell and become a Grammy-winning superstar

Kelly Clarkson: How I snubbed Simon Cowell and become a Grammy-winning superstar

The first 'American Idol' winner on how she manages to remain her own woman – Jane Austen fascination and all
Tony Oursler on exploring our uneasy relationship with technology with his new show

You won't believe your eyes

Tony Oursler's new show explores our uneasy relationship with technology. He's one of a growing number of artists with that preoccupation
Ian Herbert: Peter Moores must go. He should never have been brought back to fail again

Moores must go. He should never have been brought back to fail again

The England coach leaves players to find solutions - which makes you wonder where he adds value, says Ian Herbert
War with Isis: Fears that the looming battle for Mosul will unleash 'a million refugees'

The battle for Mosul will unleash 'a million refugees'

Aid agencies prepare for vast exodus following planned Iraqi offensive against the Isis-held city, reports Patrick Cockburn
Yvette Cooper: We can't lose the election. There's too much on the line

Yvette Cooper: We can't lose the election. There's too much on the line

The shadow Home Secretary on fighting radical Islam, protecting children, and why anyone in Labour who's thinking beyond May must 'sort themselves out'
A bad week for the Greens: Leader Natalie Bennett's 'car crash' radio interview is followed by Brighton council's failure to set a budget due to infighting

It's not easy being Green

After a bad week in which its leader had a public meltdown and its only city council couldn't agree on a budget vote, what next for the alternative party? It's over to Caroline Lucas to find out
Gorillas nearly missed: BBC producers didn't want to broadcast Sir David Attenborough's famed Rwandan encounter

Gorillas nearly missed

BBC producers didn't want to broadcast Sir David Attenborough's famed Rwandan encounter
Downton Abbey effect sees impoverished Italian nobles inspired to open their doors to paying guests for up to €650 a night

The Downton Abbey effect

Impoverished Italian nobles are opening their doors to paying guests, inspired by the TV drama
China's wild panda numbers have increased by 17% since 2003, new census reveals

China's wild panda numbers on the up

New census reveals 17% since 2003