A local council in Essex has claimed that the majority of locals “don’t particularly want” the annual RideLondon sportive to return to the town this year as residents “can’t get out of their own road” during the popular event.
Members of Ongar Town Council also argued that the apparent benefits of hosting the sportive – particularly for local businesses – were unfounded, and that the money made available to charities thanks to the event could be exceeded if all households in the area donated a “pound or two”.
The route for this year’s RideLondon-Essex sportive, organised by London Marathon Events in partnership with Essex County Council, will cover the same roads as last May’s debut edition which saw more than 22,000 cyclists head east out of the capital into the neighbouring county.
On Sunday 28 May, cyclists will ride from central London towards Epping Forest into Essex, continuing on through Epping, Ongar, Leaden Roding, Great Dunmow, Felsted, and Writtle, before heading back into the capital via Ongar.
Following the 2022 event, the first to take place in Essex following RideLondon’s move from its former Surrey base, the county council and LME held a consultation to gain feedback from local businesses and residents, with the aim of implementing improvements in areas such as access for people living locally and crossing points.
Announcing the 2023 route last month, Essex County Council said that this year’s course “has been confirmed because it has the least impact on the strategic road network in the county, includes roads wide enough to accommodate both emergency vehicles and cyclists and offers the greatest number of access options for residents.”
However, councillors in Ongar – where riders will pass through twice during the sportive – have claimed that locals have raised concerns about the event, which they say is “restrictive”, Essex Live reports.
“I’m not saying we don’t want it. We don’t want it in its present format,” Derek Birch, Ongar Town Council’s chairman, told a meeting this week.
“It blocks off the high street for the whole day and because the majority of roads in Ongar all come off the high street – the high street is the main artery – if you are not out by about 5.30am you can’t get out, and even then you can’t back until about 7pm.
“The majority of people who contact me don’t particularly want it because it is restrictive. It’s on a Sunday so the one day they can do what they want, but they can’t get out of their own road.”
Birch also questioned the perceived benefits associated with hosting the sportive in the town, which serves as a ‘welfare stop’, where riders are encouraged to take an extended break that won’t count against their official event time.
The councillor said: “It’s not as if, as the idea was last year, that people will have Sunday lunch and then ride off again, which I was very sceptical about. It didn’t really happen.
“If you are going to go on a bike ride, are you going to pull in somewhere, have Sunday lunch and then carrying on riding on a full stomach?”
Another councillor, Simon Cole, also dismissed the event’s charitable impact on the town. As a direct result of its partnership with RideLondon, Essex now receives significant funding from the London Marathon Charitable Trust to support physical activity and sporting opportunities across the county, especially in areas covered by the route.
Since last May, £1 million has been allocated to scale up the ‘Essex Pedal Power’ initiative, which aims to make cycling more inclusive, increase active travel opportunities in schools, and fund a small grants programme for Essex-based projects.
More than 80 applications have so far been approved, helping young people, women and girls, older residents, and those from less affluent communities to get on their bikes.
However, independent councillor Cole argued that the amount of funding made available to Ongar-based charities from RideLondon last year could have been surpassed if every household in the town donated a small amount to the same organisations.
“Quite frankly, if they all put in a pound of two it would more than exceed the contributions,” he said.
An initial consultation was held by Essex County Council and London Marathon Events after last May’s inaugural event, but – following a limited response from residents – the organisers are continuing to contact all 44 parishes in the county, as well as local businesses, to gather further feedback on the route.
A RideLondon spokesperson said: “The Ford RideLondon-Essex events that will pass through Ongar on Sunday May 28 will see thousands of people, of all ages, abilities, and backgrounds, enjoy the incredible experience of being part of the world’s greatest festival of cycling. Many of these will be riding for charity, helping to raise millions of pounds for good causes.
“We are pleased to be working closely this year with Ongar Town Council, Epping Forest District Council and Essex County Council to build on learnings from last year’s event and to help the people of Ongar welcome the cyclists and the event to the town.
“We want to hear from anyone in Ongar, or anywhere else on or near the route, who has feedback on Ford RideLondon-Essex.
“We held a public drop-in session in Ongar on November 1 where we shared the proposed plans for 2023 and will follow that up with another drop-in session in the coming weeks.
“When the time, date and location of this meeting is confirmed we will publicise this widely and would welcome anyone who would like to see and hear more about the plans to attend.
“We would also urge people to visit the Community Info page on the ridelondon.co.uk website where you can also find details on how to contact us.”
Ryan joined road.cc as a news writer in December 2021. He has written about cycling and some ball-centric sports for various websites, newspapers, magazines and radio. Before returning to writing about cycling full-time, he completed a PhD in History and published a book and numerous academic articles on religion and politics in Victorian Britain and Ireland (though he remained committed to boring his university colleagues and students with endless cycling trivia). He can be found riding his bike very slowly through the Dromara Hills of Co. Down.