Having a nearly 115 year unbroken run of riding and racing, the Mountbatten Centre’s Cycle Track was closed In March of 2014 by Portsmouth City Council (PCC) and the operator, Parkwood Leisure. This was due to safety concerns following a fatal accident in a senior men’s race.
It is obviously essential that after such a serious accident a thorough review of safety takes place and all reasonable measures are implemented to avoid a repeat. That review has been done, lessons have been learnt and the required changes have been identified. It’s now time to get those changes implemented and get the track open for coaching again.
After initial closure for racing only British Cycling, PCC and Parkwood Leisure then banned all cycling at the track, including leisure riding and coaching. This blanket ban affects adults and children and makes no distinction between coaching and racing, even though these two activities are a world apart. This has resulted in the hundreds of children a week who were learning to ride their bikes there, safely in a traffic-free environment, being forced elsewhere and onto Portsmouth roads. Many have just given up riding their bikes altogether. This, no doubt, will impact upon the City’s traffic volumes and obesity statistics in the coming years.
Local coaches, riders and racers have been left with a facility lying idle and a huge hole in the cycle skills teaching and racing activity in the area. This has extended far wider than just Portsmouth, and has been to the detriment of all in Hampshire and wider counties. Portsmouth is the custodian of a cycle track twice as old as London’s 1948 Olympic venue , Herne Hill, and in many ways unique in design in the UK being a ‘D’ shaped outdoor velodrome.
In the early phases of closure there were many requests to consider allowing cycle training and coaching to continue, culminating in media involvement and even a protest being held at the venue by young riders with nowhere safe to learn & hone their skills.
Since then the issue has seems to have been largely forgotten about by PCC, Parkwood and British Cycling with each organisation seemingly unwilling to take the lead. Portsmouth is allowing the 2012 Olympic legacy to slip through its fingers with this ongoing closure. Several of our cycling Olympians and World Champions, including Dani King and Rob Hayles, learned their cycling at the Mountbatten. Young riders now simply have no traffic free venue at all.
The leader of Portsmouth City Council, Donna Jones, has recently agreed to meet and dicsuss reopening the track and Portsmouth North MP Penny Mordaunt has given her support following a meeting with coaches. There is reason for optimism but to if you’d like to help ensue the track is reopened soon please add your signature to the petition here.