London Cycling Campaign has won Transport for London’s bid to lead summer rides for commuters who want to try commuting by bicycle. The first ride was on Wednesday morning.
There were four rides in fact, all coming into Central London from four directions. I marshalled the one from the North – starting in Finsbury Park.
The leaders and marshals attended a briefing last week at the LCC headquarters in Bermondsey. A noticeably different crowd from the usual cycling activists I have come to expect to see there, younger and with palpable messenger background: Chrome bags, plus-fours, and the odd piercing or tattoo outnumbered panniers and Alturas.
There I met my two team mates: Andrew Mobbs and Diego Marando. A fixed-gear rider and a veteran of countless etapes, sitting in his Rollapaluza riding cap, Andrew was the leader of the ride. Diego, my co-marshal, was a cycling instructor, a world traveller and travel photographer who made ends meet at Stanford’s bookshop.
We met to test-ride the route on Friday morning. For me it was more about test-riding my alarm clock. We met at Finsbury Park at 7.15, poured over the map for a while, and set off. The route followed a recommended cycle route from the TfL cycling maps, and after a half-hour’s leisurely riding along quiet roads, we arrived at High Holborn.
We met again at 7.15 on the windy Wednesday morning – this time, for the real thing. Our first guest of honour was LCC’s own Lucy Cooper, who came to check on us and deliver bike lights – freebies for our prospective participants. A few minutes later out of a continuous stream of cyclists passing us by one stopped: our first customer, and a connoisseur of led rides, riding a chic pink Dutch. After a while another cyclist stopped surreptitiously. On an old, well-maintained mountain bike, she had only cycled in London for a month and was in need of a few simple tips and a big confidence boost. Just the kind of rider we wanted.
A few simple tips and the official TfL briefing later we set off, with just the two riders to lead. Maintaining a steady pace, we were often infiltrated by other cyclists. An ugly, fat Landrover Vogue got stuck behind us and when he finally managed to overtake us, the driver honked. Crossing Holloway Road we got separated by traffic lights and the avant-garde had to wait for its derriere. Red Lion Street was all dug up and so we finished the ride on the corner of Lamb’s Conduit and Theobalds Road.
Our pink connoisseuse peeled off just before the end of the ride and so the feedback came from our one remaining rider. Would she come to the next ride? Definitely. Did she feel confident with us and would she feel more confident after this ride? Yes. And with the TfL Cycling Map showing her quiet routes, she now had a safer and nicer way home.
As for me, I sped down to the Smithfield public toilets for liquid control. Enough leisurely riding for one day, let’s build up some sweat!