RideLondon: Residents say 'better communication is needed'
- Credit: Ben Queenborough for London Marathon Events/ RideLondon
As feedback continues to pour in from the weekend's RideLondon cycle events, another tour is heading into the district.
Tuesday, June 7 is Stage two of the Women's Tour 2022 which starts in Harlow, part of the UCI Women's WorldTour.
The estimated arrival times of cyclists are around 11.45am in Great Dunmow, around 11.50am in Little Dunmow, followed by Flitch Green, Felsted, High Easter (around 12.15pm), and Good Easter (around 12.20pm).
The Women's Tour operates a rolling road closure system, with roads along the route closed for approximately 30 minutes while the race passes through.
There have been praise and also complaints about the inaugural RideLondon - Essex event that brought thousands of cyclists and spectators to the district at the weekend.
The RideLondon Classique elite cyclists on Saturday were broadly welcomed as they raced through, and the road closure in the town was in place for 13 minutes - up by three minutes because of the breakaway rider leading at the front.
But while there has been praise, others have said problems included lack of access, lack of information, and people losing business income.
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Little Monsters House of Fun, a children's soft play and party venue on Ford Farm off Braintree Road, has asked businesses if they were affected. So far, 35 businesses have responded. They have calculated collective losses of £47,500.
A number of people who had difficulty getting access in and out while the event was running have said that better communication is needed if the event is to be repeated.
RideLondon has said they hope to run the Essex event every year for five consecutive years.
They said access was managed as planned - and they would like to hear from anyone who had issues.
A full review of RideLondon by Essex County Council, Transport for London, the Mayor of London and London Marathon Events is taking place.
Great Dunmow Town Council has scheduled a review of the RideLondon weekend event at their annual meeting on June 23.
Frustrated residents have said that while they have nothing against fundraising rides, they are deeply concerned about the impact created by road closures.
They have also claimed that stewards on the ground were unaware of agreed access plans.
Anton James, of Little Monsters House of Fun, fears he lost around £4,000 in revenue because of the road closures, and could lose £20,000 in total if the event runs for five years.
He has started a survey of other businesses. So far, 35 have responded and they have calculated collective losses of £47,500.
He said: "While we can appreciate an event like this can raise a lot of money for good causes, we do not think it is fair or right that this is imposed onto businesses along the route without any consultation."
Mr James said it did not appear that RideLondon had communicated the access plan to their stewards until around midday on Sunday when the event was almost over.
Other businesses have said they had to modify or change their plans, or shut.
Stephanie Harris, owner of Dunmow florist The Rose Garden said information was so sparse she couldn't do flower deliveries on Saturday.
Caremark carers Nicola Arkle and James Clarke thought sideways to ensure they could continue to deliver care to elderly and vulnerable people in Great Dunmow.
They used electric scooters to get to appointments.
Caremark co-owner Michael George said they couldn't be more proud of their team.
"We knew that if the Covid pandemic couldn't stop them, RideLondon would be nothing to worry about."
Resident Ryan Smith found himself with a fellow Facebook friend trying to get information when he first heard of the event by chance. They shared this with care homes - and said that staff hadn't been given information directly.
On Sunday at 6.30am, Ryan's household had a call from a neighbour who couldn't get off their estate, as the steward hadn't seen the access plan.
"It has been poor planning, poor communication and poor execution [on Sunday]."
His petition, called Stop RideLondon through Dunmow & surrounding villages has attracted more than 1,600 signatures.
Lee Heron said he was concerned that organisers could not share the risk assessment.
He said a number of care homes in Felsted were on the route, and Flitch Green's access route was a one-way traffic route which if a vehicle had broken down, could have spelled chaos.
Some participants have praised Sunday's mass participation day, and said they plan to return to the area. Charities have also said they are grateful for the funds raised.
Uttlesford District Council chief executive Peter Holt tweeted that he was "stoked" that the mass participation ride would bring 25,000 cyclists to the district.
Dunmow mayor reflects on RideLondon
Great Dunmow's mayor Patrick Lavelle said that while it was great to see the elite riders on Saturday, and to see Sunday's cyclists enjoying the ride, raising charity money and appreciating the area, mistakes had been made.
He said incorrect signs that suggested Dunmow would be closed were corrected, but had caused confusion and damage to people's expectations.
He said the Saturday closure was not as expected - the road was closed for 13 minutes, not 10, because of the "thrilling breakaway of the lead rider".
Cllr Lavelle said it was not right that certain individuals were required to make big sacrifices, and he was very concerned by the rumours that access plans were not respected.
"I am very pleased that Great Dunmow had the opportunity to enjoy both the elite lady riders on Saturday and the mass cycling event on Sunday.
"It was great to see so many people in the High Street watching the elite ladies on the Saturday and enjoying using the bars, cafes and shops.
"On Sunday it was a pleasure to see so many cyclists from all over the UK enjoying the ride, raising money for charity and appreciating our lovely town and countryside.
"As this is the first year in Essex we saw that mistakes were made.
"If the rides come through Dunmow in 2023 then Great Dunmow Town Council will work with RideLondon and Essex County Council to ensure that the road closure signage is improved and that the Access Plans for both residents and businesses are agreed and implemented.
"RideLondon is an important sporting event for the country which we should enjoy and celebrate.
"At the same time we need to work to minimise the disruption and inconvenience to the homes on the route.
"Congratulations to all the participants and thanks to DunmowVelo, Doers Cycles and the Chameleon Cafe for their support on Sunday."
Feedback from Epping
In neighbouring Epping, there was similar mixed feedback.
A RideLondon spokesperson said they are keen to hear from anyone who had access problems, and they have again stressed the consultation and communication they have carried out.
"We would like to thank the residents of Great Dunmow and the surrounding villages for welcoming the cyclists participating in the inaugural RideLondon-Essex.
"Millions of pounds is raised for charity by RideLondon participants and the support for those riders was incredible; from pubs and cafes providing food and refreshments to organisations such as Dunmow Velo offering cyclists encouragement and assistance.
"The Great Dunmow community access plan was managed by stewards throughout the day as planned.
"Due to an emergency medical incident nearby which required an air ambulance, there may have been periods when the gap between managed access for vehicles was slightly longer than 30 minutes.
"This was because motorbikes used to slow down riders and create the windows of access for vehicles were diverted to help with the emergency.
"If anyone had a particular issue regarding access, please do contact us at firstname.lastname@example.org
"RideLondon has been committed to engaging with communities since the routes were announced in February.
"A Save the Date letter in February followed by a detailed leaflet outlining road closures in Essex were sent to 860,000 homes across the routes in the months prior to the event.
"Sixteen community drop-in sessions were held in Essex, including one at Great Dunmow on Tuesday, May 3, offering residents and businesses the opportunity to discuss local access arrangements.
"Advance warning signs were put out across Essex in the weeks before the event and there was an extensive print, digital and radio awareness campaign in Essex.
"Any individual, business or organisation that contacted us for specific assistance was responded to with advice and guidance including providing bespoke solutions for businesses and residents seeking specific help.
"A full review of RideLondon by Essex County Council, Transport for London, the Mayor of London and London Marathon Events has now begun.
"All information received from direct correspondence and feedback from our engagement events will be part of this process.
"An agreement has been sought with Essex County Council that the event will be held in Essex until 2026.
"Further information on next year’s event will be announced in due course following the review."
Email feedback to email@example.com
Up to £1m in funding
Essex County Council, RideLondon's partner, has announced up to £1m of funding for activity coming from The London Marathon Charitable Trust, the parent charity of London Marathon Events, the organisers of RideLondon.
Active Essex and The Active Essex Foundation will deliver a grants programme that will offer up to £500 one-time-only grants through the Activation Fund to inspire people to be more active.
RideLondon used to be in Surrey
RideLondon has a long history.
Developed as a legacy event from the London 2012 Olympic Games, the event was first held in August 2013.
It is organised by London Marathon Events, which organises events including the TCS London Marathon.
Before its new partnership with Essex County Council, the event was formerly called Prudential RideLondon-Surrey and was hosted by Surrey County Council.
In October 2020, Cabinet members on Surrey County Council decided to stop holding the 100-mile closed road event in their county after the May 2021 event.
In their decision paperwork, Surrey County Council said that while the event inspired cycling, generated grants and raised charity funds, there were "strong concerns" about the disruption and negative impact on local businesses and services, and concerns over anti-social behaviour by a small minority of cyclists.
The 2020 and 2021 events were not held because of the Covid-19 pandemic.