Like pretty much every resident of Yorkshire, I was out over last weekend watching the Tour de France/Yorkshire whizz past. It was a once-in-a-lifetime opportunity to get up close to the race with very little effort, which my fellow Yorkshiremen took up with gusto.
The turnout was amazing, the sun shone, the race and preceding caravan of promotional vehicles gave everyone lots to see and even the police were starting Mexican waves in the crowd. But what was really interesting for me was how the crowd behaved.
I was in Burley-in-Wharfedale, near Ilkley, a spar town that’s basically Harrogate on a smaller scale. It’s got moorland on it’s doorstep but is commutable to Leeds and has lots of good schools nearby so attracts middle class families looking for a Boden-esque lifestyle, plus lots of outdoor enthusiasts. They all swanned down to the race route (complete in some cases with at least one dog) in their own time, many arriving after the Caravan had passed, having sent a husband or best mate ahead of them to bag a suitable spot. They clearly felt entitled to a good view and no-one, not even the stewards or the police (who given the numbers of spectators were spread rather thinly imho) had any chance of denying them it. Hence, opposite where I was standing there were small children and people in wheelchairs sitting on the actual roadside as the cyclists went past. You only have to look at photos of the crash at the finishing line to see how badly that could have ended if the pile-up had happened earlier in the race.
photo (of Buttertubs I think) by @cedvasseur
It seems to me that Welcome to Yorkshire and the organisers of Le Tour had thought of everything, except an education message about Tour watching protocol and safety. Their full-on promotion of the race as a Must See Event had resulted in a sense of entitlement to a good view that actually caused both cyclists and organisers to officially appeal to spectators via the media at the end of Day One to please keep back as crowding the route is incredibly dangerous when not only are the cyclists coming past at 40mph, but the support vehicles are often going even faster than that – in fact one boy was taken to hospital on Saturday after being hit by a vehicle in the race’s caravan. The race even ground to a halt at one point during the Saturday’s first ascent up the Cote de Cray near Wensleydale as the crowd surged onto the road as the cyclists appeared.
emergency comms from the Welcome to Yorkshire Chief Exec who clearly wasn’t sleeping when this was tweeted at 3.46am on Day Two
So the Tour de Yorkshire was a major success in terms of people turning out to support it, but a total failure in terms of thinking about how people might behave when they got there. Perhaps Welcome to Yorkshire should have put a Planner on their team :)