Monday 27 June 2016

Thanks To The Campaigners & The Experts: London KidicalMass 26-6-16

Central London saw something pretty damn amazing yesterday when around 50 people turned up for a ride along the new section of CS3 between Royal Mint Street and Parliament Square.

The amazing thing was that about half were kids ranging from babies to teenagers (OK, the babies didn't actually pedal!). The cycles people used were also an amazingly broad sweep, from hire bikes to cargobikes. Until recently (and I mean just a few months ago), cycling in Central London was for the fit and the brave with road bikes being the order of the day along with plenty of lycra.

Ever since the East-West Cycle Superhighway (now part of CS3) started construction, a group of us had been thinking about a family ride to celebrate the new infrastructure. The opening was set to be a weekday morning and so we steered clear, a Sunday ride is what was needed and so it came to pass yesterday. We snaked our way through Central London with music and laughter; we came to revel in the attractions and became an attraction ourselves as tourists did double takes as we passed.

There are a few issues where people driving blocked the junctions where CS3 crossed which were a bit scary (Great Tower Street/ Byward Street and Parliament Square/ Great George Street to name two) - they need yellow boxes and some heavy enforcement. I would also recommend work to the Castle Baynard Street tunnel because some of the kids didn't quite realise it was two way and shared (in a very limited way) with motor traffic. TfL should review these locations as a matter of urgency in my view. But, once we passed Blackfriar's we didn't need to stop and we cruised all the way to Westminster and it was an utter joy.

We stopped for a relaxed picnic in the sunshine at St James's Park before heading home. My whole family came along with the two girls in the cargotrike, my wife on our folding bike and our son on his own bike - he wasn't going to come with us (nearly teen "meh"), but even he thought it was wonderful. My wife is still talking about the day and how different London is from a bike - we could have this everywhere if only we had the guts to change the streets.

On that point, the enabling infrastructure we used might have taken political capital, but it was the campaigning by many people for a long time to get the politicians to enable change (with huge credit and thanks to the London Cycling Campaign) and it has also enabled Transport for London's engineers and consultants to learn from our colleagues in the EU and further afield and adapt that knowledge for Central London's main streets. A huge thank you to the experts as well.

Please don't take my word for it, have a look at some photos, most of them taken by Rosie, my eldest daughter, from the cargotrike;




  1. It feel frustrates me when this world is almost literally built for adults only. You need a car to get to the next city (which where I live, is 130 km away. Seriously) for a day trip. I don't drink alcohol, putting that off as best I can for now (why can people procrastinate on their essays but not on this?, but what else does our society propagate as fun things to do at night if you're a teen? Some areas of my own city have a major problem with crime, the Chinatown for example, so I don't want to walk around there. I am frequently faced with the prospect of a fine for cycling on the sidewalk or I can go ride with the dual carriageway arterial at 60 km/h with a few tens of thousands of cars each day. Not fun. Becoming 16 is a major step in the direction of being an adult, I get a huge number of freedoms when I turn 16 in 2 weeks(infuriatingly close, but just out of range for the moment), but this world is not built very well for people who are not legal adult. Getting around is one of the most underestimated of desired freedoms of people. There's a reason why people, even in Sweden, would rather not be sent to prison. The Dutch teenagers have an enormous amount of freedom that I don't have. The freedom to love whom you wish with people unable to care less so long as you don't beat or disrespect your partner, the freedom to get around, even long distance on your own, hundreds of kilometres even at night, people actually telling you how you should behave once you are an adult leaving no ambiguity for when you are 18 and say "What now?". Ugh. Why Fate, why did you leave me in the place that is only slightly more civilized than the US?

    1. And that's the point, streets are for car-owning adults; everyone else is second class. It makes this stuff in London all the sweeter, but it's not enough.

    2. It's why I see my 16th birthday as an incredibly huge liberator to me. It's when I can drive on my own when I wish and because I have a car in the garage waiting for me to pass my road test, I will be able to drive it the day I pass and my dad re attaches the number plate.

      I know that it's not great for the planet, and that I am inexperienced, but what else do I have? A scooter? I don't own one, and my city isn't usually that careful with scooters like the Parisians are. I do know how to be smart with the car, and to not do anything foolish, and to call my dad or mom if I have alcohol and need to be anywhere else before I sober up completely, but it does represent a huge amount of freedom to me in the same way that the Dutch see their childhood bicycle and when their parents allow them to travel on the NS trains on their own. Adults know very well too that they drive mainly because it's so often not safe nor time competitive to use any other mode, especially at night.

      Happy Canada day by the way. I'm sure your "Independence Day" will go down in history.

  2. Hi Ranty Highwayman

    This looks pretty awesome.

    After reading this I am so keen to hire a bakfiets to see the sights and sounds of London when I go over for holiday at the end of July.

    I really love riding whenever I can. In my daily life I scoot around both of my kids in a homemade bakfiets and would love to do the same while in London for a few days.

    I have lingering images of complaints online about London cycling, but I think I'm really fishing for a "YEAH, do it." as it looks fine.

    Do you have any thoughts on the matter? Is this a reasonable idea for holiday pottering around London's big sights?

    Thanks in advance for any feedback.


    1. I cycled the cargotrike along some terrible roads to get to Central London, but it was worth it! There are now some good spine routes and if you plan your ride it will be great. To be honest, If you stuck to the EW and NS routes (CS3 and CS6 which intersect at Blackfriars), you will have a wonderful time!

  3. Cycling in Edmonton; the Dutch invented multinational capitalism, but emphatically not neo-liberalism. Youngsters do not pay much tax, whereas neo-liberal adults pretend they do whilst mostly evading/ avoiding it. `No representation without taxation', as George III never quite got around to retorting :-)!

    Peter; it sound like a good plan to me (no idea what Ranty thinks). I do not know if it is possible to rent boxbikes in London and the weather in Britain is always a gamble, even at the end of July. But be aware that the cycling infrastructure shown in this post covers only a very small proportion of roads. It is possible to get between a few of the big sights on them by planning in advance, but for the rest you will be expected to `share' carriageways with lots of genuinely homicidal motorists!

    1. London Green Cycles will hire you a boxbike, but to get from there to CS3 isn't great! If you are on Twitter, tweet out a request for help.

    2. Thanks for the advice. I actually got in touch with London Green Cycles yesterday.

  4. Curious to know what you did with the kids at St George St.

    When I cycled the route with my son in June 2016, having crossed Parliament Square, the cycle route abruptly ended outside the Institute of Civil Engineering with northbound bikes made to cross and join the road at a set of temporary lights. Frustratingly and unsafe almost at the park, but not quite. Has this now been finished?

    After our ride this way we headed up through Mayfair to then ride the wider route through Bloomsbury. What is so clear is the massive difference between infrastructure in Camden (which is good) and the Westminster (where there is very little). I do hope Westminster will one day realise their air is polluted too and the car chocked roads are not symbols of freedom, but horrid nasty unpleasent places.

    1. It's still not finished; we had to marshal the group into the park. Yes, much of Westminster is awful for cycling and walking, they need to change.