Tuesday 24 November 2020

Name our London cycle lanes - Maurice Burton and Beryl Burton in the frame

The beady eyed among you will have noticed that London has a number of segregated cycle lanes. As well as the coronavirus-led pop-up lanes there are also the permanent ones that existed back when Corona was just a beer people wanted to be seen sipping to look trendy while in a bar on the River Thames. (Sadly, this word has set a different sort of trend.) 

The permanent lanes are cycleways with official names, or rather alpha-numerical names. As a south Londoner I regularly use CS7 that goes through Tooting and Clapham. I also use CS6, which starts at Elephant and Castle and goes through Southwark, over Blackfriars Bridge and all the way to Kings Cross. Sometimes I use CS3 when riding from Docklands to Tower Bridge, along the Thames and onwards to Westminster.

Instead of having letters and numbers for these cycleways, why not give them actual names? So the bike manufacturers Brompton, in partnership with a climate change charity, Possible, and Covent Garden, asked for nominations for names for the different cycleways, and we have been given the chance to vote for the different names proposed.  

Among these names are this year's Giro d'Italia winner Tao Geoghegan Hart and former Tottenham Labour MP Bernie Grant for CS1 in North London. There is also Mary Seacole, a black nurse who set up a hospital during the Crimean War, for CS3 that goes through Central London where she was based, and Charlie Chaplin, a comic actor, for CS4 in Southwark.

Maurice Burton - read more about his life on Cyclist.co.uk

A couple of names that I am pleased to see nominated are two people by the name of Burton. Maurice Burton for CS7 in South London, and Beryl Burton for CS2 to Stratford/Olympic Park. They are no relation to each other, but they are very prominent people in cycling.

Maurice Burton is very well known among club cyclists all over the UK and beyond, though London is his home town. Thousands of people will have bought bikes from him at his shop De Ver Cycles on Streatham High Road, South London. But do all the people who go in his shop know that he is a British Cycling Champion? Maurice Burton had a successful racing career on the track during the early 70s, having won British National titles in 1974 and 1975, and representing Britain at the Commonwealth Games in 1974. 

Unfortunately, racist attitudes in those days meant that Maurice's efforts to bid for greater success were thwarted, notably when he tried to qualify for the Montreal Olympics in 1976. He later moved to Belgium and raced on the demanding six-day circuits - track races that take place over six days. While there he made many friends with other racers - mainly Belgian riders, and also Gary Wiggins, father of Bradley.

When I got into competitive cycling I bought my first few bikes from De Ver Cycles - a hyrid, and two road bikes. Maurice was always very helpful and took the time to explain the bikes and make sure I had the most suitable one for me. Other customers have given similar feedback about how helpful and encouraging he has been. As well as that De Ver Cycles have sponsored local children's cycling clubs like Sutton Cycling Club, supported other youngsters getting into cycling, and they have an inclusive cycling club, welcoming people of all abilities. 

So given his success and involvement in his local community, I think it is only fitting that a bike lane in South London be named after Maurice Burton.

Beryl at a race in Morecambe (1966) (photo: Brian Townley)

Beryl Burton is probably the most successful female bike racer of any era. She had 90 wins over a period of  20 years between the 1950s and 70s. In her day, women's racing was restricted, with a lot of it being time trials, a bit of track and limited road racing. Racing was over quite short distances and was not a professional sport for women. 

A women's road race wasn't included in the Olympics until 1984, long after Beryl had retired. In her time, she won seven world championship titles, and held the 12-hour record, of 277.25 miles - for a time, more miles done than any man or woman. 

Sadly, Beryl didn't get to meet some of our modern-day female champions like Lizzie Deignan, Laura Kenny, or Marianne Vos. Burton died from heart failure in 1996, while cycling around her home town, near Leeds, delivering invitations for people to attend her 59th birthday party a few days later.

Beryl Burton's daughter Denise Burton-Cole was also a good racer and competed against her mother in the 70s. 

I had the pleasure of meeting Denise recently at the Tour de Yorkshire bike race. She still cycles now with her husband, and I am sure Denise will drop more than a few of us on those Pennine Hills!

Beryl Burton already has a cycle lane named after her, a 2.8km path between Harrogate and Knaresborough, not far from her home town, which is fitting. However, we see very few other references to Beryl Burton considering all her success in the cycling, so I think that a lane named after her that goes to the Olympic Velodrome would be an inspirational legacy for this great rider. The Velodrome in Lee Valley has been the scene of some of our greatest achievements by British female cyclists (notably at the London 2012 Olympics), so it would be good to have her honoured at a place synonymous with British success in cycling. 

Voting closes today at 23:59 hours.

The full list of lanes and the various nominees can be found on the Possible website.  

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