Are North Yorkshire’s councils being swept up in “kudos and glamour” of hosting big cycle races?

the 2018 Tour de Yorkshire in Richmond. Photo: Guy Carpenter.

Access campaigners have questioned whether councils are being swept up in the “kudos and glamour” of hosting international cycling races rather than investing public funds for the greatest benefit to residents.

North Yorkshire Local Access Forum (LAF) members were told while hundreds of thousands of pounds from the public purse was being spent on hosting the events, the money may be better used to develop cycling facilities for ordinary people.

The county council’s highways boss, Councillor Don Mackenzie, heard while millions of people watched the races on television, inspiring some to visit the area, when they arrived they would find towns devoid of cycling stands and roads, including part of the National Cycling Route, riddled with potholes.

LAF member Rachel Connolly said the forum had concerns about the lack of “cycling spaces everywhere” and called for support from the council.

She described the public funding of the races as a “very heavy burden”.

Mrs Connolly said: “At times of austerity is this warranted to keep on the hamster wheel of being obliged to continue with cycle tours? Some may say enough is enough and the money is going out but not a lot is coming in.”

Sh suggested the public funds could be spent on developing cycling facilities in every market town, rather than just at train stations such as Northallerton.

She said: “When they come to Bedale they will find there’s not a single place to park a bike in.

“There’s a lot of kudos for these things, but what is being done for ordinary grass-roots cyclists in between the tour times. Is the county council complicit in encouraging the high-profile events at a cost of other longer term benefits for sustainable transport?

“I do hope people won’t get swept away by the glamour of these things and remember there is a root need for sustainable transport and not lose sight of everyday provision for ordinary cyclists.”

Councillor Robert Heseltine highlighted to Cllr Mackenzie that the cycle races’ effect on trade varied dramatically between areas.

He said: “You have to recognise there’s a fair percentage of residents and businesses in North Yorkshire who aren’t so enthusiastic about cycling events.”

However, the meeting was told Welcome to Yorkshire had calculated the region’s tourism industry had increased by £1bn over the past year, and much of that was being attributed to the Tour de Yorkshire.

Cllr Mackenzie said the county council had resolved to be “much more transparent about the costs because many people feel there are other ways of spending money than bringing cycling championships here”.

He said next year’s nine-day UCI World Chamnpionships would cost the county council £450,000 of officer time and £2.6m for highways repairs, but most of that was rescheduled rather than extra work.

Cllr Mackenzie said: “Sir Gary Verity, of Welcome to Yorkshire, espouses cycle races because they do bring visitors in. The 2018 Tour de Yorkshire brought in additional spending of £98m.  Television images of York Minster, Ripon Cathedral and Buttertubs Pass are improving our visitor numbers.”