Bring on Le Tour Cotswolds!

Two leading county figures are calling for a Cotswolds stage in a future Tour De France.

Le Tour Cotswolds

With the country gripped by cycling fever as the famous race winds its way around Yorkshire, a bold bid could mean we see the same scenes in Gloucestershire soon.

Cheltenham MP Martin Horwood has joined forces with Lib Dem Leader in the Cotswolds Paul Hodgkinson in writing to Tour organisers. They are inviting cycling bosses to consider having a Cotswolds leg of the Tour in the next few years.

Cllr Hodgkinson, would-be MP for the Cotswolds and a keen cyclist, says the area’s unique scenery would provide a perfect backdrop to the race:

“My vision is for the Tour to start in Chipping Campden, racing down the Fosse Way through Moreton, Stow and Bourton before going through the historic towns of Northleach and Cirencester. Moving on to Tetbury and the hills of Minchinhampton what a superb advert for the Cotswolds this would be.

“The potential for tourist business is enormous. Shops in Yorkshire have already seen takings going through the roof whilst 1.5 million people lined the route. There’s no reason why we can’t replicate and better what is happening so successfully in Yorkshire right now.”

Mr Horwood feels Cheltenham would be a fantastic location to end the race:

“The Promenade lends itself to a great sprint to the finish line. Can you imagine the boost to the town it would give? The TV images would provide a real show case for the area and be a great event for us all to enjoy.

“With 3 billion TV viewers tuning in it could give the county a tremendous boost and really show off its character.”

In the letter to Tour organisers, the two men will invite them to see the area for themselves and understand the benefits of ‘Le Tour Cotswolds’.

Call for roads to be fixed to boost cycling

Cllr Paul Hodgkinson (centre) with residents along the Churn Valley cycle and walkers route.

Cllr Paul Hodgkinson (centre) with residents along the Churn Valley cycle and walkers route.

Data supplied by the National Office of Statistics shows that cycling to work has dropped by a massive 26% in the last ten years in the Cotswolds compared to a rise of 14% across the country.

Whilst the rest of the UK has had a bout of cycling fever on the back of Tour de France and Olympics success, Gloucestershire has lagged behind. Figures for the census period 2001-2011 announced on 26 March reveal that cities like Bristol saw a sharp increase of 94% in people cycling to work whilst the South West as a whole has seen a rise of 15%. In contrast, the Cotswolds has dropped at an alarming rate whilst nearby Tewkesbury dropped by 7% and only Cheltenham managed a 4% increase.

Now, Cotswolds Liberal Democrat MP hopeful Cllr Paul Hodgkinson (GCC, Bourton & Northleach) is calling for the County Council to use some of the cash from the Local Sustainable Transport Fund to improve road conditions:

“Spending money on cycling is cost-effective.  It reduces traffic, improves air quality, and improves health for the cyclists and for anyone breathing the local air.  The figures show that when towns and villages spend time, effort and money, they have been rewarded.

“In rural areas the roads feel lethal. Friends who are “would-be-cyclists” won’t cycle anywhere whilst the roads feel so intimidating.  The A40 and A436 are two roads which see high speeds and it feels very unsafe to cycle. I cycle on roads but don’t feel very safe and would do more of it if the conditions were better.

“These new figures suggest that making rural roads pot hole free and providing space for cyclists does work. In the Churn Valley I set up a safer cycling group 5 years ago and we have used the existing bridlepath between Stratton and North Cerney to give a route for bikes and walkers which is away from cars. It has cost very little due to people giving their time for free and this could happen elsewhere in the county.

Paul Morrish, from Shipton is a regular cyclist and works in Cheltenham. He would like to see disused railways used for cycling, walking and horse-riding, particularly as rural communities grow bigger:

“In rural areas and towns there is a high perception of danger.  Vehicles are getting wider which means less space on the road for bikes, pedestrians or horses.  Pot-holes are potentially lethal to cyclists –  hit one and you can be thrown off, avoid one and you can be killed if you swerve.

“A collision between car and cyclist will inevitably leave the cyclist physically worse off, but can leave the driver with unresolvable guilt.  There are many more developments planned in rural areas but sustainable transport needs to be considered as part of that.“

Now Cllr Hodgkinson has written to the County Council’s Highways boss for more to be done to sort out potholes and to provide better routes for Gloucestershire’s cyclists:

“These figures show the county has a lot to do to improve conditions on its roads and to encourage people to cycle so they feel safe and able to do what the rest of the country is doing in ever greater numbers. Whilst cycling to work in rural areas will always be more difficult we can take steps to make it a real option for people whilst improving road conditions in the towns.”