london cycle orbital

Friday 3rd September 2021

MN on Arc 2a on Lea Navigation in Hackney.jpg

One thing we appreciated when living in the capital is the ease it was getting around by bike. So many routes, so many networks and it's still developing. Actor and singer Martin Nelson took the time and effort to create the London Cycle Orbital - a network of arcs, spin offs and connections which has resulted in a 800mile network of bike paths. Just shows if you're in or around the capital, you're just a pedal away from a break from the rat race or that next adventure...

With life closed down for much of the past year, escapism has been sought in many different ways, including on two wheels. Launched to coincide with Bike Week earlier this year, London’s newest cycle network - Cycle Orbital – brings recreational countryside cycling to Londoners and the SouthEast, with assistance from the rail network.

Cycle Orbital is an ingenious integrated network of cycleways that works like this: 12 Spokes start from rail stations marking the limit of Transport for London’s Oyster Zone; they take you out to the orbital circuit itself, which is in sections of 12 Arcs, like the hours of a clockface. To tie these rides into the broader region and the national cycle network, there are a dozen Spin-offs. Together they give an almost limitless range of permutations for planning an excursion.

Cycle Orbital has been devised by actor/singer Martin Nelson, 72, whose career includes West End (Phantom of the Opera), film (Mission Impossible) and the Royal Opera House. Martin has been cycling in London for fifty years (he designed London’s first official bike route back in 1977) and between gigs and rehearsals cycled thousands of miles to recce, check and establish Cycle Orbital. It is being launched in Cycling UK’s Bike Week, which this year marks the importance of cycling for health and well-being.

Bike Week (30 May – 5 June) was Cycling UK’s annual celebration to showcase cycling and how brilliant it is. The week kicked off with the World’s Biggest Bike Ride which saw thousands of people across the UK pledge to ride their bike on a single day, celebrating togetherness and being well-connected – a key feature of Cycle Orbital.

Cycling UK’s head of engagement Helen Cook said: “We are delighted that Martin has chosen to launch his network of connected cycle rides for London in the same week as our Bike Week and I’m sure lots of our members in London and the surrounding areas will find it a source of interesting ride ideas. The pandemic has been a difficult time for arts and culture with venues shutting to the public for several months and many performers facing an uncertain future. Hopefully, we are beginning to turn a corner and the excitement of live performance to full houses will soon return. It is inspiring that  Martin has been able to turn his creative talents to devising routes that will also bring joy to people, providing peaceful new routes to discover." 

Martin said: “The idea for the network took shape over some years. The rule was to use off-road cycle paths or quiet byways and to avoid busy roads wherever possible. This has created a network that offers something for everyone, from short routes that can be enjoyed by families at weekends as well as some more challenging and adventurous routes for those who cycle more often.” All rides have been graded for hilliness, ride surface and percentage off-road; special features and family friendly sections are indicated too. You can devise your own excursion from 5 to 50 miles, using Spoke – Arc – Spin-off combinations. A dozen highlighted Rides are on the website as examples, such as trips to Epping Forest, into the Surrey North Downs, exploring the Windsor area, or using the cycleways of Hertfordshire’s Lost Rails.”

At least lockdown allowed Martin and developer Anthony Cartmell time to create the website https://london-cycle-orbital.org.uk/. It features detailed mapping, gpx downloads and extensive route guides.

Martin explained: “Now that train travel is possible again and coronavirus restrictions easing, I’m really looking forward to getting out into the varied landscapes around London. During lockdown I have been only cycling within London, but it was really encouraging to see many more young families on bikes. I hope my network will inspire lots more to go out and experience the freedom of riding in new environments near London.

Cycling UK’s head of engagement Helen Cook said: “We are delighted that Martin has chosen to launch his network of connected cycle rides for London in the same week as our Bike Week and I’m sure lots of our members in London and the surrounding areas will find it a source of interesting ride ideas. The pandemic has been a difficult time for arts and culture with venues shutting to the public for several months and many performers facing an uncertain future. Hopefully, we are beginning to turn a corner and the excitement of live performance to full houses will soon return. It is inspiring that  Martin has been able to turn his creative talents to devising routes that will also bring joy to people, providing peaceful new routes to discover." 

Martin said: “The idea for the network took shape over some years. The rule was to use off-road cycle paths or quiet byways and to avoid busy roads wherever possible. This has created a network that offers something for everyone, from short routes that can be enjoyed by families at weekends as well as some more challenging and adventurous routes for those who cycle more often.” All rides have been graded for hilliness, ride surface and percentage off-road; special features and family friendly sections are indicated too. You can devise your own excursion from 5 to 50 miles, using Spoke – Arc – Spin-off combinations. A dozen highlighted Rides are on the website as examples, such as trips to Epping Forest, into the Surrey North Downs, exploring the Windsor area, or using the cycleways of Hertfordshire’s Lost Rails.”

At least lockdown allowed Martin and developer Anthony Cartmell time to create the website https://london-cycle-orbital.org.uk/. It features detailed mapping, gpx downloads and extensive route guides.

Martin explained: “Now that train travel is possible again and coronavirus restrictions easing, I’m really looking forward to getting out into the varied landscapes around London. During lockdown I have been only cycling within London, but it was really encouraging to see many more young families on bikes. I hope my network will inspire lots more to go out and experience the freedom of riding in new environments near London.