It’s the banging on the safety barriers that tells us they are coming. A wave of frenetic beating rising up from below, masking the announcer’s urgent voice and even threatening the pumping music which is bouncing around the concrete walls of the multi-storey carpark. Overhead a police helicopter clatters, searching for something off near The River whilst just to the North the clustered towers of The City glare provocatively in the fading dusk light, finally hiding the last of the unseasonal October sun which followed the earlier autumnal rain. The announcer’s muffled exhortations become ever more drowned out by the banging as the riders approach the roof but then, as they burst out of the dark cavern-like mouth onto level 10, the crescendo dissipates as it released from the pressured confines of below and the experience becomes visual. Continue reading
I often find that preparing for a ride is almost as much of a joy as the ride itself. The slightly ceremonial laying-out of bibshorts, jersey, bidon and snacks the night before helps to mentally prepare for the task ahead. The selected attire acclimatises the brain to the likelihood of inclement weather, whilst the amount of food and water required conditions the mind to the degree of hardship ahead. When the laying out includes plus-fours, woollen tie, pipe and hip-flask though, you know it must be time for the many pleasures of The Tweed Run.
This coming Saturday (May 17th) Central London will be turned into a pedaller’s paradise as two big events take over the streets of the capital for a few precious hours. The London Cycling Campaign’s Space For Cycling Big Ride hopes to attract 10,000 cyclists of all ages and backgrounds to Hyde Park from 11am for a short, closed-road spin through Trafalgar Square and Piccadilly Circus culminating with a massed rally on the Embankment around 2pm. Billed as a ‘fun ride with a serious message’ the Big Ride event aims to highlight the need for greater awareness of urban cyclists and promote campaigns for better road layouts and separation for them.
Nearby, the 6th annual Tweed Run – “A metropolitan bicycle ride with a bit of style” – will be taking 500 sartorially-conscious velocipedists, all bedecked in their best breeches and finest frocks, on a circuitous route through the West-End, City, South Bank, St James’s and Bloomsbury. Stopping traffic and tourists in equal numbers they will cruise past on their Penny-Farthings, Pashleys and other makes of venerable push-bikes enroute to a very classy picnic in Russell Square. With prizes being for a number of categories including Best Vintage Bicycle and Best Moustache it is a truly glorious sight to behold.
The Space For Cycling campaign has gained a lot of attention recently following a spate of cyclists death in London in 2013. Their similar “Love London – Go Dutch” ride of last summer has morphed into something much more focussed on the need for immediate changes in attitudes and infrastructure for the capitals growing cycling population.
Initially started as a fun ride by a small group of friends on a London cycling forum, the Tweed Run now has linked events being run as far afield as Tokyo, St Petersburg and Seoul and is well on its way to becoming a global institution. It is a uniquely pleasant day out, especially if the weather is favourable. Be warned though – numbers are strictly limited and if you don’t have a ticket already you won’t be able to join in, so if you are looking to take part on your bike next weekend, best head for the Big Ride instead.
The two events cross each other around Parliament Square and the prime place to see both will probably be Whitehall around 1pm. Giving out a shout of “Space For Cycling” to the LCC’s riders and a “Tally-Ho” to the Tweeders will get you the best response – most probably a wave from the former and possibly a doffed deerstalker from the latter.
If you are in London on Saturday do get your self along and support the events if you can. The LCC needs all the two-wheeled support they can get whilst the Tweed Run loves nothing more than having loads of people on the pavements to parade in front of.
A map and more information on the Space For Cycling Big Ride can be found below and I’m acting of one of marshall’s on the Tweed Run again this year so I’ll be writing more about how that event went afterwards.
Fingers crossed for good weather. Tally Ho!
In the capital this week, whilst the Met advised commuting bike riders to wear extra bright clothing in case ‘drivers weren’t wearing their glasses‘, a prominent London cyclist carried out a number of erratic moves during an LBC radio interview, which threaten to put his professional life at serious risk of harm. Bare-headed, dressed in a non-reflective dark suit and clearly wearing headphones throughout, he remained oblivious to the heavyweight issues thundering around him whilst he made his risky manoeuvres. He didn’t stop even though there was a red light clearly shining in the recording studio at all times.
I know there isn’t a quick fix to the problem of the many dangers which London’s cyclists face everytime they take to the road.
I know it’s more complex than just a rush-hour HGV ban, or segregated lanes on the cycle super highways.
I know that self-interest and self-preservation are enormously important aspects of urban road-use and that vulnerable road-users need to play their part in reducing the risks presented to themselves.
I also know that repeatedly reducing the debate to one about what the potential victims are wearing is about as big a blunder that the man in charge of realising the potential solutions could make. Frankly, I’m appalled.
The start of a new week did not bring any respite from the current spate of fatal incidents involving cyclists on London’s road. Five deaths between the 5th and 13th of November has left many cyclists in the Capital in a mixed state of fear and anger. The unwelcome news today that a 60 year old man had been killed by in a collision with a lorry in Camberwell has further fuelled the loudening calls for real change. Nine of the fourteen deaths in 2013 have involved HGV’s.
Anger in the cycling community is being directed both at London’s mayor, Boris Johnson, and, more recently, at the police. Johnson, a keen cyclist himself and instigator of London’s communal cycle-hire scheme, is being accused of victim-blaming by highlighting risk-taking cyclists who don’t follow the letter of the law, and of not taking immediate action to address the dangers of large industrial vehicles sharing London’s road network with cyclists. The Metropolitan Police caught the anger of cyclists today after going out in large numbers to stop cyclists during the morning commute and ‘advise’ them to wear helmets and high-vis jackets. The Met were also stopping and speaking with HGV drivers in an aim to give road safety advice to all road-users but again the feeling is that the root cause of the deaths is being ignored.
I wrote about the last spate of deaths back in late June/early July and how it had made me question commuting by bike in London. I felt the same early last week when three people had been killed in just a few days. Tonight though I feel different. I feel as though I need to keep cycling to help get the change needed. I don’t feel like giving up and turning away. One death is too many but this has gone far too far now. The vigils, petitions, protest rides and general shouting about the issue must go on, of course. But, in light of the perceived indifference which greeted last week’s efforts, it’s obvious that much more is needed. Calls for direct action always need to be carefully weighed and balanced but I for one would support Jenny Jones’ suggestion of a month of rush hour Critical Mass gatherings at a prominent junction. And that should just be the beginning. Change is needed. Fast.
Enough is Enough – It’s time to take a real stand.
Apologies for the insensitive title of this post but it is exactly how I feel right now.
This pretty much sums up how I am feeling this month.
Because of the last 14 days, I’d like to take this opportunity to publicly state my love and admiration for all my friends and family.
I’d like to think I’m a fairly competent cyclist, crashes in races/training rides excepted, but I’m really bothered by what’s going on in London this month.
It may be that this is just a distribution event and it’ll all “even out” in the end.
However, I don’t want to take that risk. I’d like to publicly state that I’m shit scared of dying under a truck/bus/badly driven car. I do all I can to avoid traffic. I ride fairly sensibly. I don’t run red lights. I wear a helmet.
None of this will matter one fucking bit if a badly driven and or badly maintained vehicle and or badly maintained driver takes the inopportune moment to fuck up in my general vicinity.
I know I…
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