Embrace it, get behind it and watch it - that’s the message to the people of Calderdale from the Council’s cycling champion ahead of this summer’s Tour de France.
Councillor Marcus Thompson (Con, Skircoat) is calling on the region to embrace the Tour as the countdown continues to world’s biggest annual sporting event coming to Calderdale.
Coun Thompson was voted into the role ahead of Coun Adam Wilkinson (Lab, Sowerby Bridge) in November last year and is responsible for promoting cycling across the borough and ensuring there is a lasting legacy from the Tour.
He said: “My role is to promote cycling. I’ll be looking at the legacy of how all of Calderdale can benefit from the Tour.
“I’ll be talking to the Calderdale Touring Club, the Director of Public Health and the council highways department regarding how we can increase cycling the area and the opportunity to do that safer.
“I’ll also be looking at increasing the number of cycle lanes and paths.
“The Tour de France is the reason the role has been created. It’s a wonderful thing to come to the town.
“The message to the public in Calderdale is to embrace it, get behind it and go to watch it - enjoy the circus coming to town.
“There are opportunities for people on the route regarding temporary camp sites to make money.
“Thousands of people will arrive and want to see it. It’s going to be like a festival of cycling.
“More people watched the Tour de France per metre the last time it was in England than watched the Olympic road race in 2012.
“I don’t think anything this big could come to Calderdale ever again.
“It’s not just once-in-a-lifetime but once in many, many lifetimes.”
Mr Thompson experienced the Tour de France up close the last time it came to England seven years ago.
“I went to the Tour when it came to England the first time and watched it in Brighton where it went right past my house,” he said.
“It’s a euphoric feeling when it goes past, it’s very exciting and we need to capture that excitement here.
“We will be ready for it. Plans have been in place for a long time, we have been working hard, there have been lots of challenges but we are up for it.”
The race is expected to generate millions for the local economy by bringing 160,000 visitors to the area - and increase the amount of tourists visiting Calderdale by 30 per cent in the weeks after the Tour. Mr Thompson is confident the event will have a knock-on effect to the local economy and the the health of people throughout the region.
He said: “I hope there will be a financial legacy. Hopefully it will lead to more people buying buying road bikes and more people taking holidays and breaks on their bikes.
“There will be economic benefits but we may not be able to tell what they are for a number of years.
“The health benefits will hopefully be a better quality of life and longer lives for more people and more people cycling, more members of cycling clubs, more cycling lanes being used, increased infrastructure.
“They will be early indicators of whether more people have taken up cycling.
“Lots of people will never have heard of Calderdale until the Tour gets here, but people will want to ride the route of the Tour once it’s finished - there is a knock-on effect.
“You don’t have to be a lean, young, thin individual to enjoy cycling so there will also hopefully be different groups from different demographics and different areas getting into cycling.
“That will be hopefully one of the legacies of the Tour.”