Cycling at centre of London's Olympic legacy as annual two-day festival announced
Family ride for 70,000 people to be followed by mass ride for 35,000 on Olympic road race route
Mayor of London Boris Johnson will today announce plans for a two-day annual cycling festival centred on the Olympic Park in Stratford, including what could be the world’s biggest sportive, with the first edition being held in August 2013, reports the BBC.
Mr Johnson is due to formally announce the event today in a speech at the World Economic Forum in Davos, Switzerland.
The first day of the event, which is backed by world champion Mark Cavendish, will see a family ride on closed roads in the centre of London. As many as 70,000 people will ride on an eight-mile route passing many of the capital’s major attractions.
The following day features a 100-mile ride that will follow the route of this summer’s Olympic road race route. The BBC says that it is envisaged that 35,000 cyclists, ranging from amateurs to pros will take part, making it similar in size to South Africa’s Cape Argus, which dubs itself ‘the world’s largest timed cycling event.’
It’s unclear whether the London event will include a separate pro race, similar to the format of the London Marathon, nor whether it will be on fully closed roads.
The ride, which will take cyclists out into Surrey before heading back into Central London to finish at what is described as an “iconic” site, has the backing of world champion Mark Cavendish.
The Team Sky rider said: "This is the ideal legacy not only for our world-class team of cyclists and paracyclists, but also for thousands of amateur cyclists who will hopefully be inspired by our performance at the Olympic Games.
"This event will be a fantastic opportunity to show Britain at its best and to share our Olympic cycling heritage."
It is expected that the event will bring millions of pounds into London’s economy as a result of the presence of cyclists and spectators from the UK and abroad as well as international TV exposure.
Mr Johnson, who faces re-election this May, has faced intense criticism from cycling campaigners and opposition politicians in recent months following the deaths of a number of cyclists in London with calls to redesign key junctions, among other things.
The BBC says that according to the mayor’s office, money raised through the cycling festival will be used to make conditions better for the capital’s cyclists as well as funding other initiatives – although quite how much money is involved is unclear.
The Green Party's mayoral candidate, Jenny Jones, maintained that priority needed to be given to improving conditions for all cyclists in Lodon rather than focusing on high-profile events and flagship schemes.
"We all enjoy a party, but I am worried that the Mayor is neglecting the basics and that is putting cyclists safety at risk," she explained.
"The energy and money which has gone into high profile schemes like cycle hire and the cycling superhighways, has not gone into improving cycling facilities for the rest of London.
"The plans for a network of cycle lanes across London had their funding withdrawn and cycle safety has not improved in the last four years."
Mr Johnson himself said: "This spectacular event will help ensure the 2012 Games are just the start, not the end, of the benefits of hosting the Olympics.
"We are already creating long-lasting opportunities for the park and the capital which will showcase London to the world, attract more visitors, create more jobs and support the economy."
It has also been confirmed that there will be a phased re-opening of the Queen Elizabeth Olympic Park, as it is to be renamed after the Olympics, from July 2013 after works have been carried out to make it suitable for public use.
To coincide with the August 2013 cycling festival, The Olympic Park Legacy Company (OPLC) is to organise "wheel-based activities" at the park that weekend, including involving the local community.
Margaret Ford, chairwoman of the OPLC, commented: "The London Cycling Festival is just the kind of event that fits into the family ethos of the Queen Elizabeth Olympic Park.
"Thousands of people will get the chance to enjoy our most beautiful parkland in an event that will bring people together and encourage healthy living."