Is a two day cycling event what London’s cyclists really need?

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Next year there will be a two day cycling event that will provide a lasting legacy for the 2012 Olympic Games. This is according to an announcement today by London’s mayor Boris Johnson.

The two day festival will be held on August the 3rd and 4th. This was initially announced back in January, with Boris holding off announcing more details until the last few days of the Olympics.

Four events will be taking place. The Freecycle will close off an 8-mile route in central London. It will replace the SkyRide and should see around 70,000 people attending.

The RideLondon Grand Prix will be a race through central London along a 1.3 mile loop close to The Mall.

There will also be a 100 mile RideLondon sportive challenge on a closed route designed to imitate the Olympic road race. It is expected that up to 20,000 riders will take part. Entry will cost £48 and cyclists can apply now.

Finally, there is the RideLondon classic. This will be attended by many of the world’s professional cyclists and is likely to become part of the UCI race calendar. It will be covered by the BBC.

This is all well and good but is this something that London’s cyclists really need?

There’s no doubt the two day event provides a focus point for cycling and will raise much money for charity. It also has a feel good message to it and encourages people to try out cycling, some perhaps for the first time.

But once the two day event is over – what are London’s cyclists to do with the other 363 days in year?

This is the questions cycling campaigners are today asking. It’s unlikely they’ll get a response from Boris.

The Mayor had promised to look in to the London Cycling Campaign’s “Go Dutch” initiative. What this call for, is to have a major review of London’s road network and to begin to integrate Dutch style infrastructure, that will provide safe cycling in London.

Others are taking a more upbeat view. British Cycling President Brian Cookson is quoted in the press release as saying:

“The Launch of RideLondon today is further proof that British Cycling’s Olympic legacy is already in place. Like the rest of the country I have celebrated the achievements of Laura Trott, Bradley Wiggins and Sir Chris Hoy, not just because they have succeeded during a wonderful summer for British cycle sport, but because they and the rest of the British Cycling team are inspiring people across the country to get active.

Success in the Tour de France and the Olympics has seen membership surge, seeing 250 people a day join British Cycling. There are over 160,000 more people cycling once a week or more than was the case six months ago.”

What do you think? Will you be attending?

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25 Responses to Is a two day cycling event what London’s cyclists really need?

  1. George Johnston 10/08/2012 at 1:46 pm #

    I agree with this wholeheartedly. Closing the roads for two days a year won’t stop people dying on the other 363.

    Someone was even killed cycling past the Olympic Park, during the Olympics, on a junction that had already been flagged up as unsuitable. Surely this would prompt politicians to take action!

    We need actual segregated cycle lanes forming practical routes around town if we want to see bikes used as a method of transport by any other members of the population than (stupid) athletic males.

    This ‘legacy’ simply promotes cycling as something fun to do for recreation once a year. It doesn’t significantly help improve actual day-to-day cycling rates in London.

  2. Gizmo 10/08/2012 at 1:55 pm #

    Well, I’ve signed up for the 100. Pretty steep at £48 but it’ll take some organising, and you do get a “free” jersey. Events like this should be supported as much as possible – you don’t get to ride on closed roads very often!

  3. sm 10/08/2012 at 2:08 pm #

    Events like this should be encouraged. While a 2 day event will not change the infrastructure, it will encourage new people to take up cycling, which in turn can only be good for cycling.

    Look at the London Marathon. When it first began it was dominated by men interested in running. Now it’s attracting all comers and encouraging people to be healthy.

    Seriously, we love your blogs but you need to be a little less partisan, it only encourages the “them versus us” divide between cyclists and everybody else.

    • chris 10/08/2012 at 5:23 pm #

      Oh… very sorry about being so partisan (only your perception frankly) because 61 cyclists have died on the UK’s roads so far this year, one the other week on a junction that LCC have repeatedly stated to TfL that its design is so flawed that someone could be killed on it.

      As for mentioning the London Marathon, please do go and look about how the organisation behind it is a registered charity but only a fraction of the money they raise actually goes to causes. (Heres a good start: )

      The “Us vs Them” perception is already firmly in place and installed not by cyclists, with the inadequate regulation of drivers (10,000 have over 12 points on their license), or prosecution in cases where a driver has been responsible for a collision where a cyclist (or pedestrian) has died.

      Quit the passive attitude that cyclists should just quieten down and GTFO of the way while those of us who care reclaim our streets.

      • sm 11/08/2012 at 3:29 pm #

        Passive? For supporting a cycling event that will er, get people cycling. And here you come with the rally cry of the warrior cyclist: “people die on the roads cycling”. People die on the roads walking too. And driving. Cycling is not as dangerous as you make it out to be (or perceive it to be). Attitudes like yours are what frighten people from cycling. The infrastructure will change when more people start cycling.

        I agree that TfL can do more at certain junctions and slowly they are investing money in this. Slowly, but at least it’s a start. A large percentage of cycling deaths in London are with HGVs turning left. Cyclists should never be in this space. Ever. Sometimes they’re given no choice, hence the need for a redesign. I also find it baffling that HGVs with such large blind spots can legally take to the road.

        I’ve cycled in London for ten years. Of all the near misses I see, I’d say it’s 50/50 between poor driving and poor cycling. I believe cyclists should have a strong, positive voice. Hence I was sorry to see this article questioning if an event designed to encourage cycling was a good thing.

        For every driver with points on their licence there is a cyclist on the road with no lights. But hey, thanks for the expertly exhibiting a partisan attitude and illustrating my point.

        I mentioned the marathon to highlight how it has broadened the appeal of the sport, not for it’s charity endeavors, but thanks for trying to twist that too.

        • chris 11/08/2012 at 5:43 pm #

          >”Passive? For supporting a cycling event that will er, get people cycling.”

          The event is too little, too late from a mayor that has repeatedly says he wants more to cycle yet has done scant little to pave the way for it. Why wasnt it scheduled for this year? Why the +365 day wait for it? Why is it a scaled back version of what was announced in January?

          Passive, yes, because I have seen so many people who have lapped up this steaming pile of Boris PR bullshit, thinking it means the roads are going to be more egalitarian for vulnerable users, or that it will encourage cycling numbers that reach critical mass so people will stop using cars for short, unnecessary journeys, or that:

          >”The infrastructure will change when more people start cycling.”

          The infrastructure will not change one bit no matter how many people cycle.

          If we look at other countries that have an advanced cycling infrastructure, like the Netherlands, for instance, it is quite evident that cycling numbers made no difference to whether cycling infrastructure was improved, but it was increasing and sustained protests against cyclist and pedestrian deaths that forced a reevaluation on how road planning was structured.

          >”I agree that TfL can do more at certain junctions and slowly they are investing money in this. Slowly, but at least it’s a start.”

          I can guarantee that as it is alleged that TfL are reexamining certain junctions with the “Go Dutch” principles, it will still be playing second fiddle to their long held policy of maintaining (and increasing) traffic flow.

          Only the naive would believe that there are no bad drivers/cyclists/pedestrians and are entirely free from responsibility, which is why the constant call of “infrastructure” is almost as shortsighted as the oft heard cry for increased penalties against cyclists or compulsory helmets, and is only understanding one layer of action that needs to occur. Going back again to the Dutch model, there is extensive cyclist awareness for drivers, just as there is road awareness training that begins as soon as children can ride and is now deeply ingrained in their culture.

          Going back to the 2 day cycling festival: Bogata has put London in the shade with their car free sundays that happen EVERY weekend, not once in a blue moon. I would recommend watching this short film about the Ciclovia:

          How London is not doing a weekly event like this is astounding and a disgrace and so yes, a 2 day festival next year is a pisspoor PR exercise by a mayor that has amply demonstrated that traffic flow is all that matters.

        • sm 12/08/2012 at 9:42 am #

          You make some good points. I’m far from a Boris fan and I have the same opinion as you. He is not the “cycling mayor” he claims to be.

          London is not Bogato. It is not Amsterdam. It is a global city with an old, twisted and medieval street plan and narrow streets. As you say the politicians have a vested interest in supporting the car. But banging on the outside of their car windows and shouting at them is not going to make them listen to the cycling lobby. We need the support of the public, who, when they hear the aggressive arguments, focus only on the volume of your words and not the content.

          We’re arguing for the same things but with difference voices. This was my original point.
          We both want a louder cyclist voice on the street. You think that means shouting. I think this means lots of people saying the same thing at the same time. My problem is that your approach damages my approach.

          You believe it’s best to “fight” for better cycling infrastructure and I believe it’s better to reason. The language in your comments “disgrace, astounding and GTFO” – these do our arguments no favours. You can only adopt this method and have a revolution if you have the support of the public. The cyclist lobby most definitely does not have the support of the public.

          Why does Boris want to smooth the traffic flow? Because a large proportion of the people who voted for him drive. The more people we get cycling, the more the cyclist vote will count. This year London saw the Greens specifically target the cyclist vote. My hope is that as cycling grows, every party will chase the cycling vote and by doing so, they may (may!) have to deliver on their election promises and improve cycling infrastructure.

        • Simon 12/08/2012 at 10:01 pm #

          Cycling in London is incredibly dangerous. The only reason there isn’t so much carnage is that the young, the old, the infirm and the nervous would never get on a bike in the capital. If you had the same proportion of schoolchildren cycling to school here as you do in Holland, then you’d be seeing a death a week.

        • chris 13/08/2012 at 11:59 am #

          For some reason, I cannot seem to reply to your last comment so I will do so here:

          >”London is not Bogato. It is not Amsterdam.”


          Sorry if this is not obvious to you but London is as old as Amsterdam and I dont know if you have ever visited there but Amsterdams streets are “old, twisted and medieval” as well. In fact, all their backstreets run alongside canals. OMG, how do they ever accommodate cars AND bikes???

          If you had bothered to look further into the ‘Ciclovia’ article, you would see that it has been taken up in over 100 other cities around the world so the model is not applicable exclusively to Bagota.

          >”It is a global city with an old, twisted and medieval street plan and narrow streets.”

          Sorry but this is a pisspoor argument that is rolled out time and time again by car and cycling supporters that bears no weight under examination and shows a lack of knowledge of London.

          The only parts of London that are like this are within the square mile (City of London) or in the backstreets of the West End. Large swathes of “old, twisted and medieval street plan and narrow streets” were cleared to make way for large thoroughfares that are now almost like motorways within London. Such examples as Marylebone/Euston road, Kingsway, Archway, Victoria and Albert Embankments, Elephant & Castle, Vauxhall gyratory, Park Lane, etc etc.

          Even on roads such as Charing Cross Road all the way up Tottenham Court Road could easily sacrifice one lane for a segregated cycle path and not impede traffic flow at all.

          There are various blogs that cover this within, and outside of London and show how there is plenty of space on the roads:

          >”We both want a louder cyclist voice on the street. You think that means shouting. I think this means lots of people saying the same thing at the same time. My problem is that your approach damages my approach.”

          Then you have no idea what Im saying in the slightest.

          You think that waiting until you get a saturated number of cyclists on the roads, it will be necessary for roads to be adapted for those people.

          Despite the uptake because of TdF and the olympics, those numbers will not be sustained, will return to near pre- levels once ‘newbies’ experience being squeezed on the roads, and maybe even have a ‘close shave’.

          A 2 day festival in a years time will come far too late for those people.

          Vole’o’speed actually sums up far more articulately and elegantly as to why this festival is a disgrace, too little too late and will do nothing for cycling in London (nor why any previous SkyRide has):

          >”The more people we get cycling, the more the cyclist vote will count.”

          Then you really have missed the point and are more partisan that you have accused others of being.

          My position has never been just as a cyclist. I dont want roads adjusted so that I have a better experience as a cyclist. I want to reclaim the streets back for the community.

  4. EM 10/08/2012 at 2:19 pm #

    I don’t think the article’s partisan! In fact it just presents both sides. Events like this are great feelgood things to do which raise a lot of money, hopefully to be directed into positive schemes, but of course the real legacy would be to rethink the junctions etc. to prevent further fatalities as much as possible.

    It’s always a harder sell to put out a glossy marketing campaign about having redesigned the Elephant & Castle roundabout to make it safer for cyclists, as opposed to launching a ‘brand new’ inclusive event…

  5. Cameron 10/08/2012 at 3:11 pm #

    I signed up. 100 miles on closed roads – get in.

  6. Brian 10/08/2012 at 4:40 pm #

    It’s not “either/or”: this event doesn’t and shouldn’t stop other things going on that improve the daily life of London cyclists. And getting more cyclists on the road is itself a good thing for those of us who are already there.

  7. Mark Hanley 10/08/2012 at 5:44 pm #

    Closed road 100 mile ride in and around London?? This is the stuff of dreams! Stop grouching and get your registration in – although I suspect you already have 😉

    Imagine if other world cities pick this up and do the same. Great idea; long overdue.

    As for the other 363 days: let’s keep working at it.

  8. idavid 10/08/2012 at 6:30 pm #

    I went to the press launch which sometimes felt like a triumph of hope over experience. I’m sure the organisers will do what it takes to put on a competent weekend, but I do struggle to see how they’re going to translate “Olympic legacy” into more bums on saddles. Actually I tweeted earlier @ride-london How many new cyclists do you expect on London’s streets the day after your event?

    The trouble is, there’s a reheated 8 mile Skyride and a 100 mile sportive with no bailout points and nothing in between. All the other mass events I’ve ridden around the world fall between these two extremes, and for good reason; there’s an element of challenge (even for kids) but the 50/70 mile sportives are within reach of the averagely fit commuter.

    The Mayor’s people refuse to charge entry to the “Freecycle”, so with no money, media or sponsors as yet they have little interest in promoting it except to tick the inclusivity box.

    And as the 100 miler will attract folk who ride anyway, where are those new bums going to come from?

  9. Vivian Echeverry 10/08/2012 at 8:36 pm #

    I agree with another comment here: we need separate cycling lanes not just with paint but something that actually forces motorists to pay attention and not drive so close to cyclists as most do.

    I don’t think that this event will be popular if motorists are ‘inconvenienced’ for two whole days.. it will just make them dislike cyclists even more..

    We need to (excuse the word) Ride the wave of the Olympics and the gold medal success of cycling (bmx, road and off-road) whilst still fresh on people’s minds. It would be great if gold medallists were involved in some way too.

    This event is a year away and hopefully its enough time for the organisers to get their campaign well balanced; otherwise its just a waste of money for cycling initiatives whilst the only people who benefit could be those we vote for.

    If it really is to succeed, this event needs to factor-in a clear need of training – for unruly cyclists, unruly motorists and those new to both – fundraising to make roads physically safer for cyclists, if not all main roads, at least those hotspots where fatalities just keep on happening.

    Londoners already think that cycling is a fun and youthful activity, as they equate it with a few negative aspects of youth, ask any motorist and the words Peter-pan or Tree-hugger will pop up now and then.

    So yes, this event needs to promote cycling as FUN, but also as a SERIOUS transportation alternative; for example, there is PADI for divers so why cant there be something similar for us?
    The more people that ‘learn to cycle’ the better, perhaps london could one day be more tolerant of our rights to cycle on its roads.

    I would love to see the day when people stop and thing of us as someone’s parent, sibling or spouse, and stop viewing us cyclists as one more bug to run over on their way from A to B.
    Compromise and middle-ground are the way to go.

  10. Luv 2 Cycle 10/08/2012 at 10:38 pm #

    I find it really sad that a 2 day once in a year in London is supposed to give a feel good factor for the whole of the country. A feel good 2 days wouldn’t be needed if we had a real segregated Dutch style cycling throughout the country where cyclists could ride safely 24/7 365 days of the year.

    Where there would be no more road congestion because anything up to 80% of the country, including school children would be making short journeys by bike.

    No, I will not be going to this feel good 2 days, because for a start trying to travel in this country by train with a bike, (3 changes of trains for me) is nigh on impossible. Bikes are barely catered for on our railways since privatisation, (no guards vans for bikes).

    The 2 days might get more people out on their bikes for those days, and could possibly encourage a small handful to continue cycling afterwards, but the majority will put their bikes in their sheds and garages after a few rides out and they will be forgotten.

    Whilst it’s lovely to be able to ride on closed roads, it’s not the answer to getting people on their bikes for commuting, shopping, school runs, and every other every day travel.

    Closing roads for special days proves that cycles and motorised vehicles should not be occupying the same space.

  11. John D 11/08/2012 at 8:07 am #

    I think we’ve missed the potential slow cook genius of this.

    Run 1 day skyride for a few years. Get people acclimatised. Next step it up with a 2 day festival. Naturally it’ll have to run for a couple of years to get everyone else used to it. Afterwards the big jump: a week of cycling with all roads closed to motorised traffic during a working week. This establishes grounds for the month and finally year of cycling.

    After that, who would want to go back?

  12. James R Grinter 11/08/2012 at 12:51 pm #

    These freerides do not solve the problem of how to get to them if you don’t/won’t cycle on unfriendly London roads.

    Escorted rides to the start are not the answer for that larger group of potential cyclists.

  13. Bill G 12/08/2012 at 10:26 am #

    A well written post, the new festival will be good fun but not really a great legacy.
    There is plenty of room for Dutch style in the suburbs, which where the vast majority of us live, there are six lanes of traffic and a central reservation on Stratford high road for example.
    Even in the more densely populated areas such as Camden the council has managed to insert some segregated lanes.
    The mayor agreed to Go Dutch at the election, he should be held to his promise.

  14. idavid 12/08/2012 at 11:15 am #

    Going Dutch is not just about segregation. It also means sharing – in this case, sharing the road.

    Let’s say HM govt wakes up to the potential of the cycling vote. Cue DfT announcement of a big number, say £1bn, as a nod to Olympic success.

    By the time this has been devolved to local councils, divided into 10 annual instalments and filleted by vested interests, it will mean a few raised kerbs coming near you – or not.

    And the bigger the number, the more likely it will be offset by unwelcome measures such as banning cycling on the road where an alternative exists (as is beginning to happen in Holland). And helmets, anyone?

    @sm is spot on by advocating reason over warfare. Many people love cycling but hate cyclists. Until that’s turned round, cycling will continue to be a bit player. How to turn it round? Spend a fraction of that £1bn on merging cyclist and driver training, so that every 17 year old “thinks bike” when (s)he’s learning to drive, and don’t issue a driving licence unless the candidate can show evidence of a recent Bikeability course. Many driving instructors support this BTW.

    A new generation of bike aware drivers would themselves be likely to cycle more and fear of traffic, now the #1 barrier to new cyclists, would decrease. You don’t need a two day festival to make to happen, just political leadership. Stop playing trains and planes, Justine Greening, this is your true legacy!

  15. A cyclist 14/08/2012 at 9:53 am #

    Wow this is such a bad idea. Drivers in London need more roads closed, like there wasn’t enough of that shit already with the Olympics bullshit. And Im speaking as a full time cyclist here.

    Anyways, what’s the message here?
    Cyclists can only be safe to cycle on roads closed for other traffic and to the other traffic’s inconvenience?
    Demos of cyclists numbers should only be held on certain routes?

    Critical Mass for me, anytime. Grassroots movements, yes please. Corporate approved pat on the back nonsense like this, no.

  16. Barton 14/08/2012 at 2:27 pm #

    I am torn. I think the idea is a good one – but there should be 20/45/75/100 mile options: families with young can do the first (as well as the completely inexperienced), those with more saddle time can opt to do the others depending on the feel of the day (too hot, to wet, etc).

    My metropolitan area has two “classics” where the roads are closed to all motorized traffic all day long (ride lengths of 20, 35, 45 and 60 miles offered). The events have been so well attended in the past that they had limited the number of attendees, and then just changed to riders signing up for either a morning start or an afternoon start. It is an expensive deal: street closures, port-a-potties/loos set up at intervals, police/traffic cops at main intersections to help with traffic flow, etc. But, gosh! It is very very fun!

    And let’s be honest: these events aren’t to help cycling, not really. They are a way of bringing more bodies into town at times when tourism is lowest (who wants to visit London in the first part of August? Not me, thanx – give me the late autum and early spring!). I don’t believe these events are for the locals at all. But locals can take part and maybe experience something they haven’t before (perhaps a traffic-free Elephant & Castle roundabout?)

    Perhaps there is no corporate sponsorship now, but I will be it will be coming shortly, and that you’ll have groups lining up to sponsor the rest stops. Best part of my local classic? A local brewery sponsors the finish line, so a pint is waiting for you at the end!

    • Bruna 31/12/2012 at 10:01 am #

      S\’funny, I thought I hadn\’t been ovlrey victimised whilst cycling (been commuting for 30 years or so) and then when I thought about it .. oh yeah, there was the time a carload of young guys decided it would be fun to pull alongside, scream abuse and then when I turned down a side street and cycled on the footpath, they mounted the pavement and chased me. Nice.Of course I\’ve been abused a fair bit. Oddly enough, I copped the most abuse when I started wearing a fluorescent yellow riding shirt. At the same time someone though it would be amusing to buzz me by driving really really close. Very important not to stand out too much in Australia apparently.My biggest worry when cycling to work is not that cars give me too little clearance (90% of my commute is on shared use pathways) it is that they give me too much! There is a blind corner on a crest on my route to work and cars routinely pass across the solid middle line, sometimes entirely in the other lane, and they have no idea if there is another car approaching. Very few cars think to slow down at all. I\’ve noticed this when driving a car though. I quite frequently have to move to the left hand side of the lane to avoid cars that swing out of their lane to avoid parked cars and other obstacles. Taking their foot off the accelerator seems an option of last resort.

  17. Andrew Jones 17/08/2012 at 11:45 am #

    The whole thing is stupid, and then people jump on defending the RACE of all things?

    For anybody interested in cycling as a means of transport and not a fan of sports cycling, this race is a non-event. I couldn’t care less, any more than driving a car makes somebody a Formula 1 fan.

    This connection between sports cycling and transport cycling really has to stop if we want to encourage “normal” people onto bikes.

    Maybe the “family ride” will bring some new cyclists into the fold.. but more likely it’ll just be for one day because the streets are closed, reinforcing the fact that ONLY THEN is it safe to ride in London and that it’s just a leisure activity.

    I’ll probably go out and do it, because it’s nice to pootle along through closed streets, but this whole event does nothing to promote cycling as a means of transport.

    • A cyclist 18/08/2012 at 1:59 am #

      spot on chap. Couldnt agree more, especially about the fact of no link between competitive cycling and transport one

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