Friday, July 5, 2013

Ride London - A Bridge Too Far?

Ride London is a weekend of cycling, including:

"Freecycle" - don't make the mistake of thinking this is a car boot sale, it's what was previously known as Skyride, and before that Freewheel, and before that Prince.

London-Surrey 100 - this is a 100-mile ride, billed as the "largest charity fundraising cycle event in the world", but still not big enough - limited to 20,000 riders and massively oversubscribed.

There's also a pro road race along the London-Surrey 100 course, and some criterium racing.

You could say that anything that raises the profile of cycling is a good thing. To Cycalogical, it seems like a bit of a missed opportunity. The London-Surrey 100 is going to result in the closure of Tower Bridge, Southwark Bridge, Westminster Bridge, Lambeth Bridge and Vauxhall Bridge, Chelsea Bridge, Albert Bridge, Putney Bridge, Chiswick Bridge, Kingston Bridge and Hampton Court Bridge.

That's a lot of bridges, and a lot of disruption. There are some spoilsport myopic car-dwellers who will moan that cyclists are getting everything for nothing, considering they don't pay any road tax (whatever that is). The irony is that to take part in the London-Surrey 100, you do have to pony up £50 or so, which is a lot more than a day's congestion charge and more than a year's road tax for quite a lot of modern vehicles.

If you're not one of the lucky, £50-poorer cyclists, but still want to ride your bike, then tough luck. It looks like you won't be allowed on the London-Surrey 100 course, and you may well be affected by the knock-on effects of the road/bridge closures. If you want to go up to the Freecycle event on the previous day, it will be the same story as previous years - once you get out of the cordoned-off central London section, you're back into the crap, hostile London environment that delivers the worst air quality of any European capital and one of the lowest cycling modal shares. There's been no attempt to provide any road closures or any kind of traffic-limited environment to get there and back. And once you're in central London, the route is about the same length as it was for previous Skyrides, which proved inadequate for the numbers who actually turn up, resulting in a very slow-moving queue.

RideLondon seems to be delivering a lot of the disruption of a traffic-free day, but with none of the advantages. One of the Mayor's cycling champion Andrew Gilligan's main complaints is that cycling needs to be broadened out of it's MAMIL/young-fit-men niche, yet what the London-Surrey 100 is doing is the precise opposite. If we're going to close a lot of London's road system for a day, let's do a proper job and give ordinary people a taste of liveable streets. Let them hear birdsong, experience tranquility, sniff clean air and perhaps even pootle around slowly on a bike.

And what about the other 363 days of the year? It makes no sense to pull out all the stops for one rather exclusive annual event that encourages cycling, yet presents cyclists in their daily lives with an environment that makes them feel as out-of-place as a British woman in the second week of Wimbledon.

1 comment:

  1. Quite right, but in keeping with the Mayor's way of doing things, surely the whole weekend is about corporate sponsorship, not cycling promotion?