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In the first place, if the title is not properly describing my question, please edit it.

The fact is: the bike advocacy groups of my city are slowly getting some attention from City Hall, and bicycle culture is slowly growing, with some cycle paths and education campaigns. The growing of bikers, in the other hand, is much faster, and there are a lot of people prone to advocacy and putting pressure on the politicians.

We are beginning to think about asking to build a public velodrome (track), nothing fancy, but something that would allow regular folks, respecting some rules of course, to train in a controlled environment instead of in traffic.

The problem is (and now come the questions):

  • How can city hall perceive any positive effects of having a velodrome, so as to justify investment? Should we mention racing events, and such?
  • Normally, the cities which have velodromes allow non-track bikes to train there? What are the common restrictions for use of a public velodrome?
  • What should we care about, in terms of size, surface type and other norms, in order not to end up building a track that could not be used in official events?

Thanks very much for reading and for any advice!

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This is my local velodrome (never actually used it) - –  Tom77 Aug 9 '12 at 15:16
There is a town (Northbrook, IL. USA outside Chicago) near me with a public velodrome. It is part of the local park district. It might be worth contacting them to get some info/help. –  Mike Two Aug 9 '12 at 18:01
Maybe you want something more along the lines of Austin's Veloway - a paved trail, not a track. –  Jefromi Aug 9 '12 at 18:20
@Jefromi My jaw dropped when I saw the Veloway on Google Maps. Have just sent the link to my fellows! –  heltonbiker Aug 9 '12 at 18:48

3 Answers 3

up vote 8 down vote accepted

Velodromes are not a suitable cycling venue for members of the general public. They require specialized equipment (e.g., higher bottom brackets to avoid pedal strikes), training (e.g., no moving up/down track without ensuring you have room, maintaining enough speed in corners), and discipline.

Expecting untrained riders and/or unsupervised novices to ride on the track is practically begging for crashes, injuries, and lawsuits.

As an example of restrictions on use of public velodromes, the Dick Lane Velodrome in East Point, Georgia was built as a public venue. Control over operations was granted to a 501(c)3 nonprofit, the East Point Velodrome Association. It is operated as a sporting venue. Members of the public are allowed to ride on the velodrome during unscheduled hours provided they have signed a release waiver, are accompanied by at least one other person, and have completed a weekend-long training course. Track bicycles are required, with the single exception of pursuit-style events, where riders may (but for all intents and purposes never do) ride a standard road bicycle.

Cheaper and more appropriate for your purposes would be to petition the city to build a circuit. Essentially, just a mile-or-so long, limited-access, paved bicycle path that loops back onto itself. No banking necessary, and bike paths are cheap and fast to build. You're not constrained to a flat oval, and turns need not be sharp enough to require banking for fast riders.

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A circuit that could be used for criteriums? –  freiheit Aug 9 '12 at 17:20
Great answer, but it is interesting to note that we ALREADY HAVE a banked, asphalt, open air "velodrome" in a park in our city (Porto Alegre, Brazil). Unfortunately, it doesnt receive maintenance for years, so the tarmac is rough, tree-leaf laden and full of root-cracks. Also, it has two concave curves, and each of the main curves have a different radius, rendering it completely "unnoficial" and unworthy to receive big investments. –  heltonbiker Aug 9 '12 at 18:41
Also, regarding danger, there are a lot of skating and bmx infra-structure around, and they are as much accident-prone, I'd say, than a possible velodrome. –  heltonbiker Aug 9 '12 at 18:42
That was my thought, @freiheit. Besides being usable for training and/or recreation, it could also serve as a venue for future road races. –  Stephen Touset Aug 9 '12 at 18:45
@heltonbiker Then I'd say it's even less likely that they'll do any better with a second one, unfortunately. Velodromes are somewhat expensive to build and maintain, particularly compared to flat bike paths. Plus, skateboards and BMX bikes are perfectly suited for use in skateparks. Road bikes are not suited for use on banked velodromes (even sans issues regarding brakes / derailleurs), and speeds can easily be much higher than at skate parks. –  Stephen Touset Aug 9 '12 at 18:49

Honestly, I don't think that a velodrome would accomplish what you are intending, taking the public from the streets to the track. Riding on the banks of a velodrome (Unless it's wide/long such as the 'drome at the end of Paris-Roubaix) is an accomplished skill, so what I'm afraid you'd have is a bunch of riders doing laps at the bottom of the track.

Also, unless you make a velodrome the size of Indianapolis Speedway, it's going to be size prohibitive for being able to accommodate a lot of riders, it would quickly become very congested and nearly as dangerous for untrained/average riders as the street with a bike lane. And, your serious track riders will not use it during public hours for that reason.

If you have a strong advocacy group, I would lobby for more bike lanes, public awareness of the 3 foot laws, more off the road bike paths and other safety/training opportunities than a limited use velodrome.

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This an old thread with an accepted answer; the consensus is against the idea.

So here is a dissenting view.

In my city (Melbourne, Australia), there are seven velodromes that are open to the public. Access is always with personal responsibility. These open (to the public and to the sky) facilities see fairly constant use, and regular club use. Most of them are listed on this incomplete wikipedia page.

There are also 3 high quality covered velodromes with controlled access, and in the wider state (Victoria) we have 9 more velodromes, most of which are open.

At the public velodromes, we do not see crashes, any more than crashes on bike paths, roads, and cycle lanes.

Users self-select by experience how they ride. Beginners, with some "coaching" from more experienced users ride at the bottom. As they gain experience / skill / speed, they ride higher up. Most of the public velodromes have banking of only ~20°, but some have banking (at the ends) of up to ~40°. The outdoor velodromes are nearly all concrete; a few are asphalt. The indoor ones are all wood.

I certainly agree that velodromes should not be the highest priority for cycling infrastructure. They should be part of an integrated cycling lifestyle culture. A velodrome is one place where a cyclist can ride as fast as possible, without endangering others, and minimal danger to themselves. They benefit their users, and non users.

Velodromes are like any sporting infrastructure. The more you have, the more they are used, and the better the health and sporting outcomes are.

@heltonbiker It would be interesting and helpful to others to hear (three years later) how that advocacy turned out.

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Hi, Andy, thanks for your nice answer! Unfortunately, not only we have not got any velodrome but also, despite the steady increase in bicycle use in my city, City Hall has shown itself as the worst I have ever seen regarding policies for use of open and public spaces... Anyway, there is growing discontent from every possible segment of activism, and we hope to raise awareness so that future politicians should be elected with different priorities than, shopping malls and abundant car infrastructure :o( –  heltonbiker Sep 22 at 12:31

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