The members of the jury made up their minds in their virtual meeting. What came out of their debate was not a verdict, but a message peppered with arguments, words of encouragement and optimism for the 80 towns and cities that applied for the “Tour de France Cycle City” label. After checking the 80 applications against an assessment grid spanning all the tools available to policymakers for promoting cycling, the one thing that everyone agreed on was the overall quality of the applications. Paris and Rotterdam were the only cities to receive a 4-bicycle rating in the 2021 ranking, mainly for their enduring commitment and their ability to ramp up their efforts to promote cycling in all shapes and colours. The criteria attach more importance to the direction in which the municipalities are moving than to the current snapshot. For example, the 300 people who call Loudenvielle home will soon have a sign with three bicycles at the entrance to their town, as will the inhabitants of Orchies in northern France and Bourg-d’Oisans in Isère, at the foot of the 21 legendary hairpin turns of the Alpe d’Huez.
As well as handing out rewards, the first edition of the “Tour de France Cycle City” label also aims to light the fires of ambition in many elected representatives, who now have realistic perspectives and goals to work towards. For example, several municipalities chose to wait another one or two years before applying in order to have time to roll out public policies based on measures that lie within their capabilities and meet the criteria of the label. The lion’s share of the tips provided by the label comes from the recommendations set out in Savoir Rouler à Vélo, a national scheme designed to get more young people to practise cycling.
Christian Prudhomme, Director of the Tour de France, said: “Strengthening the ties between the bicycles of champions and the bicycles we use in our everyday lives is paramount. The Tour de France wants to do its bit to help to promote cycling around the globe. At the symbolic level, the stars of the peloton ride alongside the students and workers who use their bicycles for their daily commute.”
Marion Rousse, 2012 French national champion and pundit for France Télévisions, said: “I have no doubt that cycling as part of our everyday lives has a great future ahead of it, but it also has responsibilities. It is a source of fun and, at the same time, an ethical tool for society as a whole. Local authorities are a powerful driver of the development of cycling, but it’s also true that conjuring the image of the Tour de France is a real boon. Children are eager to hop onto their bicycles after watching a stage on TV.”
Olivier Schneider, president of the French Federation of Bicycle Users (FUB), said: “This label is a valuable tool because the assessment grid doubles as a guide for local authorities looking to step up their commitment to promoting cycling. It’s a source of inspiration. I’ve always said that people who love the Tour are going to want to go out for a ride or move around on their bicycles. We need to bring down barriers.”
David Lazarus, mayor of Chambly and co-chair of the working group on sport of the Association of French Mayors: “Just as the Tour de France visits towns and cities in all regions and of all sizes, we noticed that the label could suit small towns just as well as big metropolises, rural areas in the mountains just as well as urban agglomerations. Cycling has a wide range of uses, so promoting it has become a key issue across the country.”
Émilie Defay, France Bleu Paris journalist specialising in mobility, said: “The commitment of the Tour de France to promoting cycling-friendly policies through this label sends a powerful message. Cycling stands to benefit a lot from the convergence of sport and everyday use. As someone who is used to covering the latest news on cycling in Paris and Île-de-France, I was pleasantly surprised to see all the efforts made by the applicants, from small towns to large cities. And, if this label can encourage even more municipalities to take up the challenge, all the better!”
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