Monday, 1 August 2016

#RideLondon #FreeCycle 2016: Mixed Feelings

London has just been basking in the delight of the 2016 Ride London and as usual, it was a great weekend of cycling.

For my family, it was the first time my wife and two girls participated in the Free Cycle event on Saturday, where a swathe of Central London was closed to traffic to enable people to cycle around in perfect safety. Not all roads were closed; some routes were open or partially open with marshal control, but it was well-planned and we had a great day.

I took the (idiotic) opportunity to bring the box bike up into Town so our 2-year old could take part and it was the to and from journey which leaves me with mixed feelings. The last few years, we have taken bikes up on the train and this was the first year I had ridden in (there is no way the box bike will fit on the train!)

The way in was fairly uneventful as I was on the road really early (my average speed was about 9mph, so I wasn't rushing). I did have to cycle along Romford Road which has a surface slightly worse than the Moon and I did have the impatient of the No.25 bus overtake me at the last second to pull into the first westbound bus stop on CS2 in Stratford. I did find CS2 west of Bow highly variable in terms of crossfall, humps and protection; I was almost tipped off by an adverse gradient; steering left into a bus stop bypass as the gradient fell to the right was not pleasant on 3-wheels.

Going home was far worse. CS2 through Whitechapel was awful with no protection near the market and I did find the narrowness and tight geometry of the bus stop bypasses hard work, it might have been because I was tired and I felt I held up other people wanting to pass. The worst part was leaving Stratford town centre and heading back east where it was a constant slog with drivers lurching from "must get in front", to speeding past me, to blocking what lengths of narrow cycle lane there was - CS2 was utopia in comparison. 

And that's the depressing point. Most of East London is car-sick; on a random Saturday afternoon, every piece of legitimate parking was taken up and still people parked everywhere else. Footways have been dug up to provide parking laybys thus creating door zones for people cycling and there are some awful pinch points. Coming from a (temporarily) car free world, through an area of variable protection and then into the wild-East where car is king and takes up all of the space shows we've a long, long way to go.

Anyway, back to to the positives of Ride London; be under no illusion, provide an environment where people feel safe and they will come out in their droves. Apply this principle to protection on main roads and filtering on side streets, and we can enable people to cycle those short distances. I really cannot see how people are not making this connection. I'll leave you with some photos of the day.


  1. You're absolutely right about East London. On my way to the RideLondon100 I couldn't believe how awful Stratford and Bow are from a cycling perspective. And why the hell were so many cars there at 070p on a Sunday morning? Who are these people that insist on driving EVERYWHERE 24/7 and why do they do it?

    1. I can't blame people really, it used to be me and I probably still make some dubiously short car journeys because it's easier.