Cycling as an elite sport has often has little to do with ecology. Convoys of team cars, the consumerist message and the way riders dump used bottles and food wrappers don’t make things look very green at all.
But the sport is being used to promote cycling as transport, to tie bike racing with a message about the environment. For example the Tour de France visited London in 2007 and this was used to promote cycling in the British capital; the same happens when there were races in Mumbai. Similarly the races often head through pristine countryside and even national parks.
Now there are plans to make the sport itself a little bit greener. ASO is trying special “collection zones” where riders can throw away things knowing that it will be collected. Many teams today use biodegradable bottles but these take time to break down and besides, it’s a bad example to litter the countryside. The idea behind the zones used by ASO is to use identifiable areas where the waste can be collected.
There’s an air of a public relations stunt here. There’s no obligation on the riders, doing this gives ASO a splash of greenwash. But like all things, it has to start somewhere and it’s useful. Seeing riders dump things by the road is never great, especially as amateurs are often copying the pros; it’s not uncommon to see energy food wrappers beside the roads most popular with cyclists here.
I welcome this initiative and suspect we’ll see it used again in the Tour de France if not in many more races to come.