So, it looks like the spectre of greenwashing will continue to hover over the cycling world today, whether it’s on the streets of Adelaide or the roads of Essex, as London Marathon Events, the organisers of RideLondon, announced this morning that one of the world’s biggest car manufacturers, Ford, has become the event’s title sponsor.
Last May, you may remember, Ford joined up with RideLondon as its ‘presenting partner’, which the American motor company said would help push its ‘Park the Car’ initiative, encouraging people to ditch the car and cycle or walk if the journey is under three miles.
> RideLondon announces... one of the world's biggest car manufacturers as presenting partner
And with RideLondon making a huge loss last year – the first time that the event was held since the dawn of the Covid pandemic, and the first in partnership with Essex County Council after moving from its former home in Surrey – thanks to the absence of a major sponsor, the car giant has now stepped up to front the three-day event, as well as becoming its official electric vehicle supplier.
The undisclosed three-year deal gives Ford the naming rights to all three of the RideLondon Essex sportive events (the routes of which were announced last month), the RideLondon FreeCycle through eight miles of closed roads in the capital, and the RideLondon Classique, a three-stage UCI Women’s WorldTour race, won last year by Lorena Wiebes.
> Route for RideLondon-Essex 2023 sportive confirmed
Unsurprisingly, the words ‘active travel’ featured heavily in RideLondon’s announcement with Ford this morning.
“This is a landmark day in the history of RideLondon as Ford becomes the title partner of the world’s greatest festival of cycling,” said Hugh Brasher, the Event Director of organisers London Marathon Events.
“We worked closely with Ford last year to amplify their work in promoting active travel and Ford’s innovative Park the Car initiative, which encourages car users to cycle or walk rather than drive short journeys. We look forward to building on our very successful partnership to build active travel into everyday life.”
Lisa Brankin, Ford’s Managing Director in Britain and Ireland, added: “Partnering with RideLondon, the world’s greatest festival of cycling, is a clear way for us to connect with a wider audience and share the countless benefits of cycling and walking.
“It’s also a fantastic opportunity for us further support both our Park The Car initiative, promoting smart choices around which mode of transport to use, especially for short distances, and also raise awareness of Ford zero-emission vehicles.”
RideLondon FreeCycle (Transport for London)
Meanwhile, London’s cycling and walking commissioner Will Norman was as equally effusive, saying: “We need to reduce the number of car journeys taking place by supporting people to switch to active travel options like walking and cycling, and the car journeys that do happen need to be cleaner.
“This way we can not only tackle the challenges of air pollution, the climate emergency and congestion, but also help to build a safer, greener and healthier London for everyone.
“RideLondon is a brilliant event which will inspire people to take advantage of an environmentally friendly, cost-effective and fun way of getting around. With Ford’s support we can now continue to deliver this world-class event and encourage even more people to cycle around our city.”
However, over on social media, not everyone was as impressed with Ford jumping on the cycling bandwagon.
“This is a terrible, terrible decision by RideLondon that goes against everything the cycling movement stands for,” wrote active travel advocate Charlotte Baker.
“The whole point is to get people *out* of cars. Not promote them.”
“A multinational motor vehicle manufacturer sponsoring a pedal cycle event. Irony, as they say, is dead,” writes Paul.
While others linked the sponsorship to Shell’s controversial deal with British Cycling:
Others, however, appear more willing to give Ford the benefit of the doubt:
What do you think? Is Ford’s sponsorship of RideLondon the antithesis of what cycling should represent? Or is it just money at the end of the day? Let us know in the comments…