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London music venue re-opens as secure cycle park

Joseph Delves
16 Jul 2020

With concerts postponed, Village Underground near Old Street set to become a giant bike shed. Photo: Beth Crockatt

With dancing off the agenda for the time being, 700-person-capacity venue Village Underground is converting its cavernous warehouse space into secure bicycle parking.

Shut since mid-March, the East London venue has fallen silent for the first time in its 15-year history due to coronavirus. And while the government has recently allowed bars to reopen, venues aren’t yet permitted to host live performances.

Supporting 23 employees along with around 75 venue staff and freelancers, the arts complex is now instead re-opening as space to store up to 400 bicycles.

More bikes, and more bike thieves

With many workers avoiding public transport, cycling across London has increased dramatically, something helped by schemes allocating more road to people on foot and two wheels.

Across the country, this increase has been so pronounced as to see retailers sell out of almost all key models. At the same time, prices for second-hand bikes have shot up too.

Anecdotal evidence suggests East London’s notoriously market-savvy bike thieves have also cottoned on to this, leading to an uptick in bike thefts across the area.

It’s a combination that could make Village Underground’s £5 per day charge an attractive option for anyone needing to safely stash their bike throughout the working day.

'As an independent venue which can’t operate as a live music space, we’ve turned our warehouse into a secure bicycle storage facility,’ explains operations manager Keelan Warr.

‘With bicycle theft rife in London, and a lack of on-street parking to meet the high level of demand during this time, VU Cycle Park will provide a much-needed service for those travelling by bike.

'No one wants to finish a day's work or meeting to find their bicycle stolen or with parts missing. Located within the Congestion Charge Zone we want to support active travel and allow local businesses and residents to travel in a sustainable and socially distanced way.'

Set to open next Monday, 20th July, the bike park will run six days a week, 06:00-22:00 on Monday to Saturday. Local bike cafe Look Mum No Hands! will also be running a weekly repair service on Tuesdays.

Operating with proper social distancing measures, staff will be wearing PPE and undertaking regular hand-washing and sanitary procedures.

To help keep a bit of cash flowing through the bar’s tills, the venue is also running a pop-up bottle shop so you'll be able to collect a beer alongside your bike.

With all money going back into the business, the project aims to help Village Underground emerge in as strong a position as possible once concerts and other events are again permitted.

Find it at: 8 Great Eastern Street, Shoreditch, EC2A 3NT and more info on the cycle park can be found here.