Cycle cafe sees surge of support after stars wade in to injunction row
Cyclists were banned from organising rides departing from Velolife in Berkshire following noise complaints.
Business is booming at the cycle cafe embroiled in a row with neighbours trying to stop clubs using the premises as a meeting point after some of Britain’s top cyclists leapt to its defence.
Velolife was set up on the site of an old pub as a cafe and bike workshop in 2016 by entrepreneur Lee Goodwin in the small hamlet of Warren Row in Berkshire.
The cafe was championed by the likes of former Olympic cyclist Chris Boardman and Team Ineos rider Chris Lawless after it was slapped with restrictions on cycle meets after noise complaints.
Local cycling clubs were even threatened with enforcement action by the Royal Borough of Windsor and Maidenhead for allegedly using the cafe’s car park as a starting point for meets.
Mr Boardman wrote on Twitter: “This isn’t motorcycle gangs, drunks or even noisy people, it’s mostly middle-aged people getting some exercise with their friends.”
He said it was a “solution looking for a problem” while Mr Lawless described the council “a joke”.
Even the council’s leader disagreed with the handling of the case.
Simon Dudley tweeted: “Think I’ll cycle to @thevelolife over the weekend. Sounds like a great spot for a coffee. Something @RBWM should be supporting given what fantastic mass participation activity cycling is.”
Following the row, the business saw a bumper Sunday, with dozens of new customers showing up to express their support ahead of a day’s cycling.
Mr Goodwin told PA: “Business has certainly picked up. It’s been quite busy and there’s been a lot of people we’ve never seen before. It’s been quite bizarre.”
He added: “There’s definitely been an impact, there’s just a huge amount of people showing support.
“Lots of people coming to say ‘we support you guys, we don’t normally come out this way but we support you and we hope it goes well’.”
Last year, an inspector from the Royal Borough of Windsor and Maidenhead banned the cafe’s use as a meeting point for cyclists after one set of neighbours said up to twenty had been congregating in the car park.
An injunction, seen by the Telegraph, was later sought against the cafe and local clubs threatened with enforcement action after cyclists were said to have met at the cafe in January.
It banned the cafe’s use by “congregating cyclists, including but not limited to, cycle club members arriving by any means including car, van or cycle, at any time of day or night,” the Telegraph reported.
After an outcry from cyclists, last week the council issued a clarification stating: “Cyclists are welcome to use the facilities at the cafe but must not arrange organised meets that start, end or stop at the cafe.
“This is to prevent large numbers of cyclists congregating outside the cafe and causing a nuisance to residents.”
It apologised for suggesting it would take enforcement action.
We have issued a letter to cycling clubs to clarify the situation at the Velolife Cafe. Cyclists can use the facilities at the café but must not arrange organised meets that start, end or stop at the café. This is to ensure nearby residents are not impacted. Full letter in image. pic.twitter.com/aDvShXOctA— RBWM (@RBWM) August 7, 2019
Mr Goodwin was left bemused by the row, pointing out the cafe had never organised meets itself.
“We can carry on trading – what we are not to do, and what we don’t do, is organise events.
“Groups come through – although it’s nothing to do with us – and stop and have a coffee and a cake.
“It is very difficult to understand why they are trying to stop it.”
The cafe has a further court hearing in November at a venue yet to be set to hear the council’s injunction application.
The row over Velolife comes as new figures revealed shop vacancies in town centres has hit a four-year high.
Data from research company Springboard showed that the national town centre vacancy rate is now 10.3%, while footfall to local businesses fell 1.9% in July compared to the same time last year.
Over the last decade, traffic to local businesses has fallen 20%.
Diane Wehrle, Springboards marketing and insights director, said: “Many of our smallest high streets, and the businesses within them, are being hit particularly hard as they need to find a new role moving forward that does not just focus on retail.
“The increasing demand by consumers for leisure and experience provides a ray of hope for many high streets.”