2010 Mayor of London's SkyRide

Now in its fourth year, yesterday's Mayor of London's SkyRide saw 15km of central London roads closed to vehicular traffic and a record-breaking 85,000 cyclists take to the streets.

Despite personal reservations about the over-commercialisation of the event and the cycling 'message' being somewhat lost in the glare of 85,000 day-glo Sky bibs, there's no doubting that this event is now a major fixture in London's cycling calendar.  For the very fact that many of those who do join the ride are not the cyclists you usually see around central London, I'm a big fan.

But the event has almost become too popular for it's own good.  Riding safely and totally unencumbered by threatening or dangerous traffic is clearly a hugely attractive activity in the UK (not that our bike campaigns will admit this of course).  As a consequence the SkyRide rather more resembled the SkyPush as two-wheeled traffic ground to a halt at various bottle necks, narrow points and switch backs.  If the Mayor of London needs tips on how to grow the SkyRide (and I'm sure that all 85,000 attendees would say grow it he should), he should look no further than the city of Bogota, in Colombia, where some 70 miles of roads are closed to cars EVERY Sunday and 1.8million smiling residents take back their streets.  Next year, eh Boris?

It was a great opportunity to go site-seeing traffic free, especially for younger riders who would never usually have the chance to cycle these roads;

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As I mentioned, the traffic-free ride has now almost become too popular for it's own good.  In future years the space given over to cyclists will have to be rapidly expanded in order for it to continue being a success.  At points along the route this year it was somewhat stressful as it was just SO busy...

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There were all manner of bicycles out and about on the ride, from trailers to tricycles, and not forgetting the husky team pulling their owner and his daughter around the course!  Anyone with a young family thinking of buying a new car to move the kids about should think about getting one of these wonderful bikes instead...

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Despite the plethora of high-viz vests (handed out free in order for participants to emblazon themselves with the Sky logo as oppose to, you know, stand out in broad daylight on a traffic-free route) some people were keeping things cycle chic with aplomb, and looked all the better for it.  You know me, I'm a sucker for re-iterating the message that you don't need funny or extraordinary clothes for everyday and ordinary cycling and if you manage to look good in the process then all the better!

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But of course, with no traffic to scare the kids, the day was always going to be all about famillies out for the day in a part of London that most people would usually consider 'off-limits'.  Mums, Dads, couples, kids... this is what mass cycling is supposed to look like...

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And, at the end of the day having ridden all around central London, by the point it was time to go home I think most of us felt like this little one...

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See you at next years hopefully bigger and even better ride!

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12 comments:

freewheeler said...

Sky Ride shows the incredible potential for cycling in London which is currently being suppressed by car-centric transport planning and pointless infrastructure like 'Cycle Superhighways' which will never get the masses cycling.

If the LCC was smart it would have rushed out a press release in the wake of Sky Ride emphasizing the desperate need for safe, traffic-free cycling routes in London as the ONLY way you are going to get a genuine cycling revolution.

Even Sustrans has now woken up to the reality:

"In Danish, Dutch and German cities with high cycling levels, it tends to be that women are equally likely as men to cycle regularly, and the proportion of cycle journeys by children and young people is as high as or higher than those by working-age people.

"Achieving genuinely high levels of cycling requires that the whole of society feels able and comfortable making some of their journeys by bike.

This is currently not the case in London. Roughly twice as many cycle journeys are made by men than women, and whilst levels of cycling rose significantly since 2000 among working-age people, the number of cycle trips made by children and young people declined between 2001 and 2006/07. Sustrans believes that these are defining issues for cycling in London

Great pics by the way, Mark.

Mark S said...

As you've said it was a great day out and was fantastic to be able to get out on the oh-so-familiar (for me) roads of London with the kids :-)

As I commute into town each day I kind of forget that I'm riding past landmarks people come from all over the world to see!

LTMWB said...

Nice post great pics

james said...

Great pics of a great event. Great too to see so may people of all ages and abilities on so many different bikes. Not a mythical 'lycra lout' in sight. Come to think of it, most days I hardly see anyone cycling in lycra. Most of my riding is done in ordinary clothes too.

Time to get over the stereo types and make sure the healthy, practical, safe image of ORDINARY people cycling, as seen here, continues to be promoted.

Wasn't the lack of traffic noise fantastic?

Mark said...

@Mark S I agree! I kind of forget that we are so lucky to live in London and that it is somewhere that people come to visit. Somehow the roads being car free gave the city a whole different feel; I found myself looking up so much more and even noticed buildings on part of my daily ride to work that I'd never noticed before.

@James re traffic noise: my partner and I discussed the very thing yesterday; when we were picnicing in St James' we were able to hear Big Ben loud and clear; something that usually is totally drowned out by the hum of traffic noise. Isn't it sad that something as famous and iconic as Big Ben can't be heard in day to day London (unless you're standing right next to it) because of the noise of traffic? Maybe we should have car-free days more often!

@freewheeler Splendidly and succinctly put; I couldn't agree more. The remark from Sustrans is an encouraging sign.

Anonymous said...

great pictures! this was my first time attending the event with my two kids (9 and 4) having finally purchased a bike myself. the atmosphere was amazingly positive and relaxed. we all enjoyed ourselves. it would be a joy to have the opportunity to ride traffic free in central london more often.
cycling is a beautiful thing and i hope to get involved somehow in getting more people to discover it's many benefits, especially more women and young people.

love reading your blog btw!
Zoe.

Mark said...

Welcome to the 2-wheeled world Zoe! Cycling with your kids is great fun and such a fantastic thing to be able to do as a family together.

I too hope that you can get many more women and young people involved in riding.

We're glad you found us!

Anonymous said...

Nice article. I found the sheer number of cyclists (good!) combined with the poorly thought-out bottlenecks and excessive stop/go pedestrian crossings (bad!) made the cycling much less enjoyable than last year. The section from Victoria Embankment to Birdcage Walk was very badly conceived.

Lady Vélo said...

Nice pics and blog entry Mark :)
I wanted to go to this, but already had plans that Sunday - however, looking at some of your pictures, it did look mighty busy indeed!

I saw some of the Sky-Ride cyclists, as a few were riding down the Cycle-Super Highway along the A13 - with the Bibs on! I know that if I was doing the ride, I prob would not have worn the bib for cycle-chic reasons :)

Lovely to see so many kids / families were out cycling together too!

Andy in Germany said...

The pictures made me realise that locally cyclists are almost all white. In fact my Asian wife is almost the only, er... 'non-white' (?) face I see normally, and out Asian/Turkish/Russian friends all drive. Is London specifically targeting people of different ethnic backgrounds, or is it just part of the cycling scene in the UK?

Mark said...

Hi Andy, I think it has less to do with campaigns targeting specific groups to encourage them to take up cycling and more to do with London's diverse genetic make up in general. The SkyRide saw all sorts of riders from different backgrounds, however (though I have no statistical evidence to back me up on this) I think you would find that as a percentage those from non-caucasian groups who do cycle make up a smaller minority as a percent of their local population than their white counterparts. London is just a very diverse city, and all the more exciting for it!

London Assembly said...

The London Assembly Transport Committee is conducting an early progress check to assess the initial impact of the new cycling schemes, looking at how any problems are being addressed and the potential for expansion and extension.

In advance of a public hearing next month, Londoners are encouraged to share their experiences of the cycle hire scheme and the superhighways by completing a short survey.
See more details of the investigation and fill in the survey at www.london.gov.uk/assembly/cycling
London Assembly