Environmental activist organization Dernière Rénovation (DR) disrupted two stages of the Tour de France (TdF), to demand that the French government take immediate climate action.
Activists conducted two nonviolent civil resistance activities by sitting in the road on known TdF routes. The groups drew parallels between the “mad race towards the annihilation of our society” and the endurance event itself.
DR carried out a similar protest at the French Open on June 3, citing similar environmental demands. Chief amongst them is for the government to commit to renovating all buildings to be more energy efficient by 2040.
DR was founded in April and has claimed 14 acts of civil disobedience to date.
Interrupting the Tour de France for maximum exposure
Nine DR members were arrested on July 12, after the 10th TdF stage was brought to a halt. Protestors sat in the road and forced the three-week race to stop. They wore t-shirts displaying the number of days left until the climate emergency is too far gone to rectify.
Flares were set off to inhibit rider visibility. This led French police to drag protesters off the tarmac to allow the race to resume.
Professional cyclists were forced to pull up for 12 minutes, 21 miles from the end of the stage.
A second protest was conducted on July 17, with five activists arrested at stage 15 of the event. Racing did not stop.
“The reality is that the world towards which politicians are sending us is a world in which the Tour de France can no longer exist,” one protester said in a press statement. “We must act and enter into civil resistance today to save what remains to be saved.”
Cycling’s role in the climate crisis
Frequently touted as a natural way to reduce transportation emissions, cycling was discussed at COP26, albeit unofficially. It was notably absent from the transport day agenda on November 10.
However, factions within the $59.3 billion cycling industry take umbrage at the idea that bikes are an easy climate crisis fix.
Cyclista Zine, while proclaiming “solidarity with DR,” wants consumers to be aware of the impactful side of bicycle manufacture and elite sporting events.
“From manufacturing, transportation, media, and team cars to support the peloton, it sure does make a stage of the TdF, the perfect opportunity to remind us that at large, the cycling industry and sport may be getting away with greenwashing,” the independent publication wrote in an Instagram post.
It added: “Cycling has reached a point where it is a lifestyle of planned obsolescence. With yearly technological advances in fossil fuel fabrics for kit, electronic shifting, tubeless tyres, tech updates etc that we are sold to “ride and look like a pro,” cycling has become a industry based off of generating consumption.”
Global civil disobedience gaining momentum
DR’s nonviolent disruptive protests are a sign of a growing trend. Just Stop Oil (JSO) and Extinction Rebellion (ER) both engage with similar methodologies. Each campaigns peacefully for meaningful climate action at governmental level.
Most recently, JSO closed three sections of the M25 in the UK, following a 40°C heatwave, with protests ongoing. Meanwhile, ER is soon to release a documentary about its 2019 10-day rebellion in London and is planning more action for September 2022.
France and the UK have both declared a climate emergency. However, they each continue to invest in fossil fuel activities.