A local cycling group has become tangled in a legal battle – and national debate – between a neighbouring council and a Knowl Hill cafe.
Wokingham Cycling Club (WCC) was threatened with court action on Tuesday, July 30, by the Royal Borough of Windsor and Maidenhead Council (RWBM) if its members “organise any rides or events that incorporate Velolife at Warren Row”.
The council has contacted other clubs with the same message, and has banned the cafe itself from allowing cycling groups from meeting outside and allegedly starting bike rides from the cafe to prevent bothering the neighbours.
This follows a 2017 enforcement notice issued to the cafe’s owner, Lee Goodwin. The council opposed his attempts to turn the former pub into a cafe, shop, bike repair workshop and meeting place.
The conversion was only permitted once a government planning inspector was called in, but they did rule that the cafe could not be a cyclist meeting point, as this could lead to noise and disturbance for the local neighbours – and this is the element that is currently in dispute.
WCC released a statement, saying: “We were shocked to receive such a heavy-handed letter effectively banning us from using one of the area’s best cafes, especially as we had no prior knowledge of the supposed issues between RWBM and Velolife.
“Further developments with the case have seen RBWM seek to clarify this statement, but still ban clubs from visiting during organised rides. Segregating a group of individuals based on their chosen form of transport is at best discriminatory, and to discourage carbon-neutral travel and exercise in a time of climate change and record obesity levels does not cast RBWM in a positive light.”
The club added that its members are not only cyclists, but car drivers, motorcyclists, horse riders and pedestrians, and want to use public cafes without the risk of prejudice and the threat of legal action against them.
“WCC is a friendly, volunteer-run club and our members ride with us for both the fitness and social aspects, with many joining the club as they feel safer and more confident on the road in a group.
“All of our rides start from Wokingham Market Place and have a maximum group size of eight to 10 riders in order to be considerate to other road users.
“We coordinate rides to go in different directions with different café stops so as to not overwhelm one cafe – Velolife for us is one of these café stops and a fantastic one at that.”
Support organisations Cycling UK and British Cycling – both of which WCC is affiliated with – are helping all the clubs who received the same letter and hope to resolve the issue quickly.
The leader of the Royal Borough of Maidenhead and Windsor council Simon Dudley will meet with British Cycling and We are Cycling UK to come to an agreement this week.
Cafe owner Mr Goodwin has disputed the accusations from the council, and has gained support up and down the country.
Last week, former British racing cyclist Chris Boardman tweeted: “This isn’t motorcycle gangs, drunks or even noisy people, it’s mostly middle-aged people getting some exercise with their friends.”
Cycling enthusiast and BBC Radio 2 broadcaster Jeremy Vine also joined in on Twitter: “I’d be shocked if any council has the right to do this.”