On Saturday we met at Brook Green and led a ride of experienced members of the group, friends and newcomers to The Big Ride. Marking the culmination of Space For Cycling, it presented a chance for us to meet up, ride together and make our voice heard in supporting the campaign, in response to the comments from local parties and to enjoy a sunny day.
We spent some time before we sent off decorating our bikes (and indeed ourselves) with flags, placards and stickers to support the campaign. Some of the designs we’ve made may (sadly) have to last long beyond this particular campaign as our demands may continue to need to be made.
After a brief pause having made our way through the busy London streets we made our way onto Park Lane to add our voices to those of our fellow Londoners. Further down Park Lane riders were warmed up by official speeches and chanting. We however got ourselves into the mood surrounded by some of the fine bicycle sound systems London has gained over the years with a range of TV themes setting a jovial Saturday afternoon tone.
The ride progressed in a relaxed yet enjoyable and approachable manner through the centre of London with many people on the pavement cheering us on and taking photographs. Some had dressed up even more than our party.
Like any ride through Central London, we saw a good number of the roads which regularly deter people such as ourselves from more regular cycling in London. As we cycled down Lower Regent Street we encountered the half finished works to majorly rework this street but without any Space For Cycling. These are expensive works which will in all likelihood be corrected one day, but with a cost in more than money to bear before then. The London Cycle Campaign had protested these changes to no avail.
Having passed the Tweed Run, we found ourselves onto The Embankment where traffic free conditions and wide roads made for easy and delightful cycling in the sun. In the distance, a red bus loomed large, and already the main rally had begun. The speeches were mostly welcome, and positive with clear ideas of what was being done or could be done. Strangely in the case of the Conservatives this meant they spoke to us about part-time travelcards and rebates.
By far the most significant speech, as it did contain new material to most, was from Andrew Gilligan, the Mayor’s Cycling Commissioner and public face of the Cycling Vision. We’ve transcribed it for future reference. This outlined segregated cycleways, major junction overhauls and wider use of 20mph, by no means a full plan for delivery of the Cycle Vision, but it did give some timelines for sections of key projects. However, not one of the schemes he mentioned in specific detail were on the streets of West London or towards our borough. Other than the earlier disclosure of Hammersmith Broadway as a location for junction review at some stage in the coming years, little is clear. Perhaps a map of what we might get in four years now looks like this:
Andrew Gilligan’s key message though was that even the most promising sounding schemes are not a given unless there is support, not just from ourselves as people as cycle but also from residents, businesses and most critically politicians. Already it appears there are candidates declaring themselves against schemes such as the Mini-Holland programme for reworking outer-London town centres to the bike. That makes getting support for Space For Cycling all the more vital, clearly, but also the question of how to carry that support on through the next set of councils into London as schemes and opportunities arise.
Finally, after a ride back towards Hammersmith dropping off riders en route, the remaining ride leaders finished the ride at Holland Park, where we turned in by the gate where the 1996 cycling strategy was launched. The junction is almost exactly set out now as it was then, and with Superhighway 9 looking unlikely how will that ever change? We shall have to continue to fight for Space For Cycling throughout London, and make our case plain.
The ride even gained two minutes on Saturday evening’s five minute BBC London News bulletin, which we present for your enjoyment.