Time for some trash talk. There are many efforts to clean up cycling these days but here’s a more obvious example: stop riders littering the countryside they ride through.
Trials have been done in several races and now the UCI is getting on board for Paris-Nice and Tirreno-Adriatico.
Bottles often get snapped up by spectators but there’s a trail of energy bar and gel wrappers left behind after a race. Let’s not exaggerate, it’s not like there’s litter every ten metres but given the metallic packaging is easy to spot you can almost track the route of the race thanks to the debris left behind.
Paris-Nice and Tirreno-Adriatico will both have a “Green Zone”, a space before the 20km to go sign where riders can thrown away bottles and wrappers. Here the mess can gathered in one place and swept up. It’s been used before, notably in Paris-Nice in 2011. But what’s new is that the UCI is getting on board and instructing commissaires to fine riders throwing away things once they’ve passed the 20km to go sign.
This is a good idea but I can’t help thinking the sport still has a long way to go. After all if scattering litter attracts a fine after 20km, what about the rest of the race? It’s should not be acceptable to drop waste all over the countryside, the sport should clean up its act. Riders and teams can be fined for a “sticky bidon” but leave sticky packaging in the countryside and the sport shrugs.
Now it’s hard work fetching waterbottles so it’s impossible to imagine riders tasked with taking the empties back to the team car, riders can just target people by the road and some teams have biodegradable models. But packaging for bars and gels should go back in the pockets and any littering at any point should get a fine. Some riders do this privately as a personal gesture and some teams like French squad Sojasun have extra pockets on the side of the jersey designed to stock sticky stuff. But note when a race passes by there’s no litter patrol after to collect the debris.
Cycling is good for the environment but a bike race often is not. You only have to see the number of vehicles present to get this but on a wider level sometimes the sport is used to sell transport. For example the Tour de Langkawi on at the moment is linked to healthy efforts in Malaysia to get people cycling and the Tour of Oman was used to help publicise an urban bike rental scheme in the capital city Muscat. So if a race isn’t green it can promote better ideas. It’s not impossible to ban team cars but it’s a big change, the sport can adopt simple ideas.
A race can leave a trail of litter behind and the sport is beginning to clean up its act. After trial efforts things are becoming official with special zones and fines, a welcome move.
But this should be a cultural matter rather than regulatory, the 20km sign and a Swiss Franc fine shouldn’t be needed. Maybe the sport should be going further to fine all riders who drop litter at any time? This might be hard to police but it’s something all riders should think about. It’s not “pro” to degrade the landscapes that make the sport so special.