Why do I use Eastway? well I can ride there after work or on a weekend from my house, it’s central, a mere 15 minute ride from the city. Enfield (Rammey Marsh) would add another hour (at least) to the journey and as I always cycle to races if I can, this wouldn’t be any use to me or many other London Cyclists who do the same. So I would loose out and have to get in the car to travel elsewhere. I live in Wimbledon in South West London, so Enfield in the far North would be an horrendous journey. A non-starter. The fundamental point here is we need more useful facilities in central London, not less. I ask anyone to ride with me from work to Hillingdon on a Tuesday night – they’ll see exactly what I mean!
The real issue for the riders though is that the Eastway circuit is fantastic to race on, Eddy Merckx said it was one of the best he had ridden on and perhaps the best in Europe. It has helped develop National, World and Olympic Champions and It makes Hillingdon (a recent design) look very poor in comparison. The designs I have seen of the new proposals look very poorly thought out, the road circuit looks lethal! and with little, well none actually, off-road provision.
The designers have squeezed a 1.6km circuit into a space that cannot cater for one, there are so many hairpins it’ll wear your tyres out in a 60 minute crit. Perhaps they should shorten it then? I think so, certainly, just for safety’s sake. A 4th cat race will be more like a demolition derby, especially with current Eastway fields of 70+ riders! Bike racing is changing and larger fields mean more riders with little experience, so safety is paramount.
Well we wanted to know more about future provision, so we e-mailed the London Development Agency (LDA) with some FAQs. Keith Bendall who is the Public Affairs Executive for the Olympic Land Team at the LDA kindly responded…
RCUK: Will there be a multi-use facility re-instated after the 2012 Olympics?
LDA: Following the Games, the new facility within the Lea Valley Velopark will be
RCUK: When will London Cyclists be able to start using the velodrome?LDA: The availability of the Velodrome after the games depends on the opening of the new Velopark, which will be managed by Lee Valley Regional Park Authority. This will open soon after the games, although an exact date has not yet been confirmed.
RCUK: Will the velodrome remain permanent?LDA: It is confirmed that it will be a permanent facility.
RCUK: If Rammey Marsh is the only way forward, will the design be re-visited to make it ride-able?
LDA: In terms of the track layout, we have secured planning permission for the facility at Rammey Marsh (in the event that this is the chosen relocation option for Eastway), the circuit layout was designed in consultation with Users. If you have specific concerns about any particular aspect of the circuit please let us know. [I do, it looks lethal! – ed]
RCUK: Will any money be available in the future for other cycling (and specifically racing) facilities?LDA: As explained above, funding has been secured for the legacy of the Velodrome and BMX track and there is a firm commitment to the reinstatement of a multi-use facility for on and off-road cycling. In addition we will be working with Lee Valley Regional Park Authority, local authorities and British Cycling to look at the potential for the Eastway relocation site to remain open beyond 2012.
So there you have it. Everything looks rosy for 2012 and beyond, in the meantime I’d better consider moving house… Hold on though, the words “Firm commitment” are little worrying, obviously carefully chosen, so I’ll believe it when I see it.
Generally (and personally as a London based racing cyclist) I feel that British Cycling and the LDA have shown that they care very little about the cycling facilities in London, especially as the record isn’t really in their favour. They have either been run down and closed, or ignored when in trouble. British Cycling do give London cyclists the impression that they couldn’t care less, passing the buck to local authorites when things start to look dicey.
They only seem to want to step into help when there is a PR opportunity, which isn’t fair on those people who volunteer their time for nothing. The volunteers are struggling against the ‘powers that be’ with little support from our national body, who seem to care more about medals, funding and politics than they do about the legacy for grass roots cycling and racing. Sounds a bit harsh? perhaps, but I just want to see some positive action in the capital for once, rather than this war of words.
The Eastway Users Group (EUG) may have recently inflamed the row, but perhaps this is a good thing. Especially if we, at least, have the possibility of a discussion and some action.
Lastly, as an editor, I have had no press releases or communication with anyone outside of the EUG and this is the first thing I have heard back from the LDA – so how can we form a balanced opinion? So this does seem to be yet another ‘done deal’ and London Cyclists will once more loose a valuable resource and facility. At least until the season of 2013!