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;