Londoners were up in arms last night after it emerged that Transport for London had won, but then rejected, its winning bid to stage the start of the Tour de France in 2017.
The decision will be seen as embarrassing for the London mayor, Boris Johnson, who actively champions cycling in the city.
London beat other British rivals including Manchester, Glasgow and Edinburgh to host the Grand Départ. However, turning down the opportunity means that the cycling race is now likely to start in Germany and the UK will lose out completely.
Leon Daniels, Managing Director of Surface Transport at TfL, said: “We have loved hosting the Tour de France in 2007 and 2014, both of which were amazing events that inspired thousands of new cyclists and showcased London as a world class city for cycling. London remains a major attraction for world class events such as Rugby World Cup 2015 and the World Athletics and we would love to welcome the Tour back at some point – but we have always said that the return was subject to funding."
London hosted the Grand Départ in 2007 which was very successful and generated an estimated £123 million for the city, however on that occasion TfL was only asked to contribute £5.2 million towards the event. Last year the Treasury paid £10 million to host the Grand Départ in Yorkshire. Government cuts have meant that for the 2017 Tour, TfL's bill would have been £35 million and no money would have come from central government.
"To ensure value for money we must make difficult choices," said Mr Daniels, "and on this occasion we have decided that diverting £35m from the cycling budget to host the Grand Depart in 2017 would not have delivered the benefits to cycle safety that we are focused on.”
Ride Velo asks, if more than £100 million is likely to be generated by hosting the start of the Tour de France, why is it down to Transport for London to foot the bill? Surely it is not in the interests of the capital's cyclists to have to choose between cycle safety and staging the world's biggest cycle race? If central government is unable or unwilling to contribute, what about London's booming businesses and enterprise community? They are the ones who stand to gain financially from the Grand Départ.
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