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7 Things I Learned Doing the Sustrans Slow Tour of Yorkshire

TPT cycling sign and the Terry's factory
TPT cycling sign and the Terry’s factory

Sustrans put the Slow Tour of Yorkshire together in 2014 to coincide with the Tour de France in Yorkshire.

I started riding it and writing about it sometime after 2014, and in 2022 I’ve finally completed all the stages. Here are 7 things I learned while doing it.

1) The Urban Routes are Valuable

Many of the stages are in pleasant countryside but a number are urban routes, some of them in deprived areas.

It was a good idea to include the urban routes because everyone deserves the opportunity to cycle close to home, whether for leisure or to get to work.

Often I wished that a broom-proprietor had been assigned to sweep these paths, because there was a lot of broken glass to deal with. This is one of the weaknesses of the British system. A charity, Sustrans, is involved in some aspects of these routes, but it’s up to councils to maintain them – and they don’t.

2) York rules

Decorative sign on the way to Beningbrough
Decorative sign on the way to Beningbrough

My two favourite rides are the York ones – York to Selby and York to Beningbrough. If I had to pick one of those, I’d plump for York to Beningbrough, because Beningbrough is a perfect place to visit by bike and have coffee and cake.

3) We Should Have Saved All the Trackbeds when the Railways Closed

Many of the stages of the Slow Tour are on disused railway trackbeds. They make great greenways.

If only we’d saved all the railway routes in the 1960s when the lines closed, we would have a fantastic walking and cycling network. Once they’ve gone into private ownership and been built on, it’s so much harder to resurrect them as public rights of way.

I was inspired to look into Harrogate’s Old Railways and York’s Old Railways.

4) The Quality is Often Poor

Muddy mess on Hull to Hornsea route
Muddy mess on Hull to Hornsea route

The Dutch know how to do cycle infrastructure, in towns and in the countryside. In Britain, we don’t.

It would be so much better if the Slow Tour of Yorkshire routes had consistent, sealed surfaces, but they don’t. Furthermore, they are often not wide enough to ride side by side.

Again the problem stems from Sustrans being involved in suggesting these routes, but having to rely on councils to fund and maintain them. Councils have all sorts of daft ideas – like East Riding who think that cycle paths have to be wrecked so that they “fit in” with the look of the countryside.

Many councils can’t see the potential of these routes to attract visitors in two wheels, to improve the health and happiness of local residents, and to replace the car for some trips.

If councils can’t see that there’s a problem, it’s not likely that they will fix it.

We shouldn’t have a charity doing this work. What’s needed really is a cycling equivalent of National Highways, with a budget and powers to build. It could set high quality standards, and transform leisure and town-to-town cycle routes.

5) Expect the Path to be Closed Without Warning

This is a major problem: you think you’re going to do a ride, but when you’re part way along it there’s a fence and a CLOSED sign. Most of the time there’s no advance warning and no effort to sign an alternative route.

Canal towpath closure near Rotherham
Canal towpath closure near Rotherham

It’s only cycling, so it doesn’t matter. Apparently.

I’ve encountered path closures at one time or another on:

  • Stage 3
  • Stage 8
  • Stage 9
  • Stage 15
  • Stage 16
  • Stage 18

6) It Will Take You to Some New Places

Hornsea
Hornsea

Because I’d decided to do the whole Slow Tour, I visited some places I never would have gone to otherwise – including the Humber Bridge and Hornsea.

7) My Local Greenway is One of the Best

My local stage is the Nidderdale Greenway, and it compares well to the others. If plans to extend it to Pateley Bridge and beyond come to fruition, that will make it even better.

7 Things I Learned Doing the Sustrans Slow Tour of Yorkshire

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