Just days before London goes to the polls to elect hundreds of new local Councillors, thousands of cyclists will descend on central London this Saturday to take part in the space4cycling Big Ride.
The family-friendly fun ride with a serious message will snake its way through traffic-free streets, passing some of our capital's most famous landmarks along the way. But this colourful carnival of cycles has a serious message, too: those who are elected to run 70% of our streets must make them safe and convenient to cycle upon. The Big Ride is the culmination of a campaign that has asked thousands of prospective Councillors to sign up to creating space for cycling where they will rule. It's not too late to ask yours, and takes just a few seconds.
So how do you survive a bike ride through Central London with thousands of other people? Just follow our 5 Top Tips for Rocking the Big Ride!
1. Grab your family and friends!
Bring as many people with you as you can; your Nan, your Mum, that nice Mr Jerrico from the corner shop down the road... Come one, come all! They'll thank you for a fun, free, smile-filled day out and in return you get a pack of willing volunteers to carry all of your stuff for you (See Tip Number 2, below)
2. Prepare for all meteorological eventualities!
It's London, it's spring, anything could happen! You'll need to pack for all weathers: I'm thinking sun cream and rain coats, umbrellas and shades. In all seriousness, check the weather before you depart and bring lots of layers with you; you might get quite warm riding to the event, but there may be a bit of waiting round in the open air at the start of the event where you are likely to cool down very quickly. Bring plenty of clothes with you to keep your kids warm too. If you're wondering how you're going to carry all this stuff, that's what the funny shaped rack on the back of your bike is for. Haven't got a rack? Talk to someone who has. "Well hello Mr Jerrico, I'm so glad you came!"
3. Fill your tank with fuel!
Hungry cyclists are unhappy cyclists. Hungry child cyclists are even worse. Eat like a pro before you leave (I believe Sir Bradley Wiggins is partial to a Full English Breakfast) and bring plenty of sugary treats for along the way, too. If you haven't ridden for a while you'll be surprised how hungry it makes you feel and trust me, fighting with several thousand other cyclists in a central London Pret-A-Manger over the last remaining flapjack is not a good look.
4. Let the [bike] train take the strain!
Daunted by the prospect of riding to and from the ride with your family and friends? Don't be! Did you know you can take your bike on the Docklands Light Railway, the London Overground and also all of these sections of the tube network? Better still, London Cycling Campaign volunteers are running a host of free escorted "feeder rides" to get you smoothly to the event - they're great fun and there's nothing like the experience of setting off in a big group of your neighbours and other local riders. Here's a list of the feeder rides location and a map.
5. Make some noise!
Your favourite bike blogger (that's me, in case you were wondering) will be on the start line stage playing bike-related tunes, interviewing participants and generally doing his best to whip you all in to a frenzy. But once you're past the bank of speakers, mass cycle rides can feel eerily quiet. A nice shiny bell or some lovely big hooters can brighten up any ride, but why stop there? Bring whistles, rattles and a host of witty campaign slogans to chant. Or why not strap your iPod speakers to your bike, make up a cycling song playlist and have yourself a rolling disco? Let's not be too English about this and make sure it's a real party, and London's knows why we are riding!
The space4cycling Big Ride will gather on London's Park Lane from 11AM, setting off at exactly midday on Saturday 17th May, ending by Temple Station on the Embankment. Everything you need to know about Saturday's ride is over on the London Cycling Campaign website.
All above photos by Ben Broomfield and James Perrin via the London Cycling Campaign, used with thanks.