Tour de France: a reminder of the power of cycling
The 103rd edition of the Tour the France has begun. For the next 23 days the world’s most prestigious bike race will be a perfect occasion to celebrate the positive impact of bicycles in society. Bicycles are powerful resources for peace and improvement of people´s life, by offering not only mobility but also useful services to people in need.
Last Saturday, the 2016 Tour de France began with the Grand Départ at the foot of the iconic Mont-Saint-Michel with the presence of His Serene Highness Prince Albert II of Monaco. The story behind this annual multiple stage bike race is fascinating. Everything started when Géo Lefèvre, a journalist working for L’Auto magazine, envisaged a near-2,500-km-long cycle race across France as an idea for increasing paper sales of his magazine. Since the first Tour de France took place in 1903, it has become an example of resilience, team-work, physical and mental strength.
I believe, the Tour de France is a perfect occasion to create a constructive dialogue. The annual race is one of the few sport competition that have a free entrance. All Tour de France’ attendants can enjoy the spirit of joy and celebration for free.
This event allows French people to share their towns, countryside, roads and mountains with the whole world, therefore this race also celebrates multiculturalism and sport diplomacy. Every year, riders with different nationalities gather in teams and cooperate for the same goal, while crossing through different countries. The route for the 2016 Tour de France will cross four nations: France, Andorra, Spain and Switzerland.
In addition, the Tour de France serves as a platform to portray NGO’s and sport programs which use bicycles to foster peacebuilding, economic growth and social development.
In many African countries, bicycles are only alternative means of transportation to jobs, markets, schools, health care centers and others. For instance, Sakaramenta, an organization from Malawi, uses a “CareCar Bicycle Ambulance” to facilitate people’s access to health centres. Currently, over 1,200 CareCar are used by hospitals and NGO’s to transport patients, including pregnant women.
In the Middle East, cycling has become a symbol of women’s empowerment in the last decade. In Palestine, a group of women are taking the backroads of the Gaza Strip on two wheels defying traditional gender norms.
I believe that the benefits of bicycles go beyond than what appears at first sight. They can improve the quality of life of individuals and communities. It is simply a vehicle for longstanding peace and social change.