• Country

What Happens When Velodromes Decay?

By Christopher Ashley

I believe the biggest legacy of Le Tour de France are the fantastic French roads. Not only do beautiful roads result in the best road racing in the world, but they also leave a legacy that can be enjoyed and appreciated by both motorists and cyclists.

Track racing is another matter because, while the thrill of track racing is visceral, they’re not really of much use to an articulated lorry. Let’s compare two legendary velodromes – and the difference that is made when we invest in our history.

The South Chicago Velodrome, USA

Bike racing was popular in America long before football, hockey, and baseball, and Chicago’s South Side Velodrome is part of that history. Unfortunately, the old-world pursuit of velodrome racing is in danger of being forgotten. But not if the non-profit organisation South Chicago Velodrome Association have anything to do with it.

This video, taken in 2015, shows the passion for saving the only velodrome left in North America that has a 53-degree bank – just like you’d find in the old world of Ghent, Belgium. But despite the undoubted interest of the visitors, the South Chicago Velodrome has continued to decay. Here it is in 2021.

Herne Hill Velodrome, UK

In 1948 the Olympics came to the United Kingdom and Herne Hill Velodrome was built to home the cycling competition. For many years afterwards, Herne Hill became synonymous with Britain’s most democratic and inclusive sport – cycling like a mad man.

Sadly, Herne Hill had fallen into such disrepair that by 2011 its most famous competitions were hosted elsewhere. Fortunately, British Cycling was able to secure a 15-year lease and track-meets have allowed a cycling community to flourish there once more. Check it out…

What will save Chicago?

The thing with Illinois is that it’s not short of cyclists and people willing to invest in cycling. There has been plenty of investment in bike stations and painted bike lanes. Maybe Chicago needs a reminder that cycling isn’t just about transport – it’s about romance.

And there’s nothing more romantic than cycling 500km between Christmas and New Year in freezing temperatures…