Safety first for former boy in blue looking to steer clear of yellow peril

Children on the start line in Leeds last summer marking a year to go until the start of the Tour De France 2014.
Children on the start line in Leeds last summer marking a year to go until the start of the Tour De France 2014.

Yorkshire may be new to staging a Tour de France, but we’re no strangers to big events and grand occasions.

When the county was named as the host for this year’s Grand Départ, it was not as if we would be starting from scratch in preparing for every facet of what the biggest bike race on the planet brings to town.

Granted, there are elements of the unknown that have been ventured into with great care and due diligence, but rest assured there are Yorkshire folk out there already with an intrinsic knowledge of how to facilitate the Tour de France circus.

Take for instance Bob Brayshaw, a retired West Yorkshire Police inspector, who is safety and security director on the Tour de France for the three days of racing here in England.

Brayshaw did not just apply on a whim for his role – he has been involved in British Cycling for a decade, most recently as a safety liaison for road racing.

He has also worked on the Tour of Britain since its return in 2006, helped strategise the policing of the Olympics, Commonwealth Games and national road races, and is employed by Tour de France organisers Amaury Sports Organisation to work on races around the world.

In short, the 54-year-old from Leeds is as experienced as anyone in ensuring the Tour de France winds through the villages, towns and cities of Yorkshire as safely and securely as possible.

“My experience over the past 10 years has been a real aid in planning our approach to the Tour de France,” says Brayshaw.

“It may seem a little glib to suggest that one cycle race is like another, but an element of that is true. OK, the scale of the Tour de France dwarfs most others, but most elements are there.

“In simple terms, the logistics and set-up of the route is almost identical to my experience of the Olympic road race.”

Brayshaw has a large team at his disposal, handling the security for the expected two million supporters who will watch the race weave through the White Rose county.

“The numbers involved in delivering an event of this size are mind-blowing and it’s a real challenge to make sure it doesn’t overwhelm you,” he said.

“This is the largest annual sporting event in the world with billions of viewers on television.

“This adds pressure to make sure it all goes ahead in a positive way.

“Some basic statistics include the fact that the race passes through 14 local authority areas in the first two days alone and then three counties and numerous London boroughs before a finish on The Mall.

“We also need to build a huge infrastructure to deliver the event with something like 75,000 crowd control barriers – which is a lot by the standards of any other sporting event.

“During the operation or race phase, together with others from the team and local authorities, we will be working closely with our police and other partners to monitor in real time the race progress, problem solve any issues and importantly monitor the huge numbers of spectators who will attend.

“The spectators present a huge logistical challenge in their own right. With an anticipated one million extra people a day visiting the region, we need to make sure they can travel to and from the event on roads that will be extremely busy.

“We need to make sure they are safe and that they have access to medical care, water supplies and other basic facilities that we all take for granted.”

Leeds will attract the majority of the spotlight this summer, with the city hosting the Grand Départ celebrations in the week leading up to the race starting from the Headrow on Saturday, July 5.

Hundreds of thousands of visitors are expected in the city, including the teams, organisers and a healthy percentage of the 10,000 Tour Maker volunteers tasked with working alongside the security forces to ensure a smooth operation.

Brayshaw added: “There will be many events preceding the cycling, both in the days before and on the day, but my team and I are working closely with Leeds City Council to make sure the event is something everyone in the UK can be proud of, but importantly one that is safe so that everyone can enjoy the experience.

“We will need to provide security staff, Tour Maker volunteers to provide information and help, considerable infrastructure in fencing, barriers, staging, grandstands and many more elements.

“There are many challenges in leading the safety and security of an event of this profile and size.

“The whole piece is a puzzle to solve and that’s something that’s always given me a buzz. I lead life with a belief that we can achieve anything, we only need to find a way to do it.”

And what an end to his professional life Brayshaw is enjoying. As a cycling fan, is there any better way to highlight a career than working on the greatest bike race on the planet in your home city and county?

“I started my working life as an apprentice trained and qualified electrician, mainly working on tower cranes,” laughs Brayshaw.

“I then joined the police where I stayed for 30 years, being involved in roads policing, motorcycling, planning, firearms and many more bits and pieces, but was very lucky to be involved in cycle sport as I was representing the police service nationally and also as officers liaison to British Cycling, where I led the drive for change to legislation around cycle race regulations.

“I started my cycle race planning career as a police officer and motorcyclist in command of the force’s motorcycle unit. I have been convoy commander for many events over the years and I really do regard myself as an incredibly lucky person to have had the opportunities I have had.”