Cycling Geographies and the Tour de France

by Fiona Ferbrache

It is that time of year again when le Tour de France makes its circumnavigation of the country, temporally transforming villages and towns along its route.  This mega-event is global in scale, not least through the media attention that it receives; you may have seen the spectacle on television, and read about it in the newspaper or online.  Swapping my academic hat for a yellow cap, last week I stood cheering with my neighbours as we watched the peloton pass within 1km of our village.  Normal life was postponed for a day as we designed a banner, set up a trestle table laden with sunflowers and feasted on local produce.  For us, the Tour provided an opportunity to celebrate local and regional culture as a village community.

There are many ways through which the Tour de France is celebrated.  Prudhomme, the Tour’s director claims that the sport of cycling remains popular “because the bicycle is regaining its place at the heart of many cities…. Cycling will undoubtedly have a glowing future if the link can once again be made between the bike Mr Everyman uses and that of the sport’s champions” (le Roch, 2011).  Academic interest in cycling perhaps has a glowing future too.  This month’s Area publishes two commentaries on cycling (Cupples, 20011, Koglin, 2011) (see also Cupples & Ridley, 2008, Spinney, 2010) while the forthcoming RGS-IBG conference includes a session entitled “New perspectives on walking and cycling”.

If the Tour does not encourage you to don a yellow jersey or cycle up your nearest mountain, then perhaps it may inspire you to explore emerging geographic literatures on cycling.

Cupples, J. (2011) Cyclists, environmentalists and equitable urban ecologies: a response to Koglin. Area. 43.2 pp.228-230

Cupples, J. & Ridley, E. (2008) Towards a heterogeneous environmental responsibility: sustainability and cycling fundamentalism. Area. 40.2 pp.254-264

Koglin, T. (2011) Planning for cycling = planning for equity: a response to Cupples and Ridley ‘Towards a heterogeneous environmental responsibility: sustainability and cycling fundamentalism’ (2008) Area. 43.2 pp.225-227

Le Roch, G. (2011) “The only rule is that there are no rules”.  Interview with Christian Prudhomme in Le Tour de France 2011 Official Programme.  pp.64-66

RGS-IBG Annual Conference programme

Spinney, J. (2009) Cycling the city: movement, meaning and method. Geography Compass 3.2 pp.817-835

Official Tour de France website  (in which one can view the geology of France on each state


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