Wednesday, July 2, 2014

Yellow Bike Fever in Yorkshire

With The Tour de France imminent Yorkshire, the region where it will be launched, is being swept by a severe outbreak of yellow bike fever, the most widespread and virulent case I have come upon in my eleven years of following The Tour.  Yellow bikes have sprouted up everywhere.  Some are in honorific positions strapped to flag poles,

or mounted on churches,

or libraries,

or as part of a floral display.

Many are just randomly parked along the road,

or mounted on a fence,

or in a place of some significance.  Harrogate is the Ville Arrivé for Stage One and York is the Ville Départ for Stage Two.

They can be spotted atop grand buildings

and on modest row houses.

They've sprung out of dumpsters, or bins, as they are known here.

They come in all sizes 

and many shapes.

Some have someone aboard.

There is a strain of French to the fever as well,

including an occasional French flag.

And signs commenting on the French.

  The magnitude of The Tour is also acknowledged.

A minor red-dotted measles strain has also manifested itself.

It gave birth to a strange figure emerging from a clump of trees.

A more garden-variety version leaned against some bushes.

Some of the bikes were captured behind windows with a mannequin,

including an albino.

Yellow was bursting out in other malignant forms,

and shapes,

and swallowing up trees.

When I closed within thirty miles of Leeds, the epicenter of the outbreak, I began seeing a sudden surge of cyclists on the road. Passing through a yellow-biked town I asked a cyclist if The Tour would be passing through. "Just a couple miles away," he said.  When he learned I was from the US, he told me he nearly went to Texas a few years ago.  

"To track down Lance?" I asked.

"Lance who?" he responded.

"Armstrong," I replied.

"Was he one of the astronauts?"

"No.  He won The Tour de France a few times."

"So you're keen on bikes, are you.  Whatever floats your boat, I say.  I like to ride my bike, but I prefer riding it in the woods.  I won't be watching The Tour when it comes through, but I'm glad it is.  It's made people a lot more bike conscious around here."

Later I was joined by a couple cyclists on a surprisingly steep and long five-mile climb to over one thousand feet.  We chatted until we reached the summit and then stopped to talk some more.  They were true enthusiasts.  Both had ridden along with Bernard Hinault when he came to preview the route a couple months ago and had had their photo taken with him.  One pulled out his telephone to show me the photo.  The fellow on the left had won the cycle cross world championships in his age group several years ago.  He finished second to an American when they were held in Louisville, Kentucky a year or two later.  They were a delightfully exuberant pair who couldn't stop talking, exhilarated to be out on their bikes, riding The Tour route, just as I felt. 

They led me down the long descent into the town of Sowerby Bridge to its rather run-down Carnegie, decorated with Tour flags.  For the second time I wasn't allowed to use a library's electricity with the excuse that my iPad might cause a power outage.  When I protested that I had had no problems earlier in the day at another equally old Carnegie, the librarian explained, "That's what we've been told by the Town Council.  It might be simply for budgetary concerns.  Things are very tight here."

The grand, sprawling Carnegie in Keighley, also on The Tour route, was Tour-decorated inside and out and had outlets aplenty for those with computers.  

The most bike-decorated Carnegie though was in Ville Arrivé Harrogate.  I was wise to be scouting out the town three days before the peloton would arrive as the library was going to be closed that day as it was just two blocks from the Finish Line.

Besides being adorned with a couple of yellow bikes, mini-knitted Tour jerseys were hung in the entry and throughout the library.

There was also a display of bicycle books, including Lance's semi-fictional "Its Not About the Bike," and a quiz asking such questions as, "What does the cycling term 'riding piano' mean?  a) Peddling (their spelling) furiously b) Cycling to music c) Riding at a gentle steady pace."  Half of the twelve questions related to racing and half to bicycle books.  One of the literary questions was, "Newly wed Sabine Harwood, the main character in "The White Woman on the Bicycle," rides which color bike."  Along with the display of bike books was another of books and DVDs on France. 

The prize of my latest set of Carnegies was a small gem in Milnrow set back from the road framed by two larger buildings.

Its courtyard was filled with flower beds as tenderly and meticulously nurtured as those in the vast parks of London, one of the hallmarks of the city.

and also an inlaid tribute to Carneige in front of a bench.

The other gem for the day was the closed-down Carnegie in Shipley.  Despite its boarded-up first floor windows and weeds growing from its recesses, there was no hiding its former magnificence.

To complete the record, I caught up with the Royton Carnegie, the Carnegie I inadvertently sought in the town of Royston earlier in these travels.  It adjoined the town's City Hall on the main thoroughfare through the town and had "Carnegie Library AD 1906" chiseled over its entry.

I'll have time for three more Carnegies to the south of Leeds before all my efforts will be focused on The Tour.  It will bring my total for the trip to thirty-five, not quite one-fourth of those built in the British Isles.  My one regret is not having time to reach Scotland to see the very first library that he funded of all of them in the world in the city he lived the first eleven years of his life--Dunfermline. 


Dud said...

Dunfermline Carnegie Library,-3.461592,3a,75y,206.32h,88.42t/data=!3m4!1e1!3m2!1sPFVrb1ZTu3l3517JkUgu-Q!2e0

"Dunfermline Carnegie Library closed at the end of March 2014, but will re-open in 2016 as an integral part of a brand-new Dunfermline Museum and Art Gallery."

Mark Severs said...

Sowerby Bridge, not Sowersby Ridge... but great blog entry.

george christensen said...

Thanks for the correction. Hope that was the only typo.

Dud said...

Andrew Carnegie Birthplace Museum

Dud said...
This comment has been removed by the author.
Dud said...

Andrew Carnegie birthplace closest streetview:,-3.461654,3a,75y,138.84h,81.14t/data=!3m4!1e1!3m2!1sIACXW0WkHOvspom6gMhGpw!2e0

Andrew Carnegie wikipedia:

"To counter what he perceived as imperialism on the part of the United States, Carnegie personally offered $20 million to the Philippines so that the Filipino people could buy their independence from the United States. However, nothing came of the offer."