Established in early 2004 when the impending loss of Eastway became inevitable under regeneration schemes that included a London Games Bid, EUG was set up by riders as a stakeholder to engage with the planning authorties as a single point of contact competent to represent the needs of riders using the Eastway Cycle Circuit. Eastway has a constitution, elected officers and a clear mission statement backed up by a very detailed reference work called 'The Book of New Eastway' which sets out the requirements for a replacement of the facility during and after any scheme for regeneration.
Eastway had been built on a landfill site in the 70's. It was set in a 24ha site owned by the Lee Valley Regional Park Authority and funded by all London boroughs for its London-wide importance to cycle sport. Its designation as Metropolitan Open Land arose directly from its London-wide importance to cycle sport and over the thirty years of operation, the park also became a Site of Importance to Nature Conservation. Sympathetic management of the site for cycling meant the rise of mountainbiking existed alongside a 'green lung' for the Stratford/Hackney urban area of Inner East London.
Eastway was a public park run for the benefit of cycling. It offered thousands of London-based riders a 1.6km road circuit which was generally rated as the finest in the country. Bunches of over 100 riders regularly circulated in safety, which might not be expected with a tight turn at the downhill end of its start finish straight. It taught riders of all ages how to deal with gradients and turns whilst riding in a bunch. The challenging circuit provided interest and rich experience to anyone learning how to race or time-trial. Youth riders are not allowed to compete on the highway, so closed riad circuits are vital to them and much safer for all other participants in a country where cycle sport is popular but its needs are misunderstood by other road users.
Off-road riding came into popularity during Eastway's 30-plus years. Over 6km of trails were opened up by riders, turning Eastway into the home of the country's largest weekly mountainbike race series. 'Beastway' ran for 13 summer seasons, regularly attracting over 200 riders for an hour each Wednesday evening of the summer. Its popularlity owed a lot to Eastway's Inner London location, so it was easy to get to, and the rest was down to the fun and inclusiveness of cycling, which Sport England consistenly finds to be the most popular outdoor active recreation for adults and children alike.
In 2006 season, six national champions in off-road disciplines competed in Beastway as the ideal training and race preparation. These riders were all in the u14 to Junior age range. Numerous top riders in road and time-trial have emerged over the years, not least amongst them is Bradley Wiggins, the Olympic gold-medallist and professional road rider.
With such an amenity it is hardly surprising that riders would ensure the best possible protection for their sport and recreation. EUG has been able to call on the professional expertise that can be found in cycle sport, as well as the wider support of elected representatives who are readily able to understand the benefits that such an inclusive and accessible family-friendly sport can inspire. Throughout the planning process, EUG has engaged with the planners and the national governing body for cycle sport to great effect. Its actions have brought the issue to wider attention where that has been made necessary. The general assumption within the group is that it will win out because the sport is so well-received at face-value. There certainly is a major job to be done in ensuring that even Olympic discipline cycle sports have their requirements known and understood.
As at the end of March 2007 Eastway's riders are without any facility for their sport. This is because the process of relocation and provision of interim facilities has broken down, even though the loss of Eastway was known in 2003. The latest legacy plans exclude the Olympic sport of mountainbike and indicate the worst purpose-built road circuit known anywhere in the country.
- The need for Eastway Users Group remains as great as ever.
- Eastway Users Group has put out a petition for those interested to secure more Olympic sport in London's Olympic Legacy. The petition can be found at: