Cyclists turn out in their 1000s to say "Give us streets for people!"

The rallying call had gone out via blogs, via Twitter, via the London Cycling Campaign.  The word had spread like wildfire; via posters, newspapers, internet forums and good old word of mouth.  And London's cycling community responded to the call; over 2500 of you gathered to protest on the bridge and demand safe routes for cycling.

(1) The politicians line up for the ride (2) What do we want? (3) The starting line up stretched half way back to Waterloo

We were led by representatives from all four main political parties; 2012 Mayoral hopefuls Brian Paddick (Lib Dems) and Jenny Jones (Green Party) were there, as was Andrew Boff (Conservatives), Val Shawcross (Labour) and Caroline Pidgeon (Lib Dems).  All on bikes, and all parties agreeing that London's everyday and ordinary cyclists shouldn't have to fight to make their way home safely from work every night just because of their choice of transport.  They'd already united to pass a motion at the London Assembly demanding that Transport for London reconsider their plans; but democracy had gone unheard.

Brian Paddick and Caroline Pidgeon

There were representatives from the CTC, Living Streets, Sustrans and the Cycling Embassy of Great Britain all coming together in one coherent voice to show that Transport for London's plans for Blackfriars Bridge truly are unnaceptable.

And of course there were the wonderful cyclists of London - not political campaigners or professional cycle advocates - just ordinary people who get about on foot and by bike who know that the bicycle could be key to unlocking London's potential, if only the conditions were right.  A woman scurrying home in a sharp suit and high heels shouted "I've ridden a bike since I was 5.  I'd be with you tonight if I wasn't so terrified of this bloody bridge!"


There were dogs in baskets and kids in bakfiets.  Old people, young people, and people from all across the city.  My phone was in meltdown as messages were coming in from Scotland, from the Netherlands from Argentina(!!) that cyclists around the world were watching and sending their support.  Having been blogging furiously since the subject since it all began back in February it was an overwhelming evening.


Thank you, London pedestrians and London cyclists, for showing that you care and for coming on the flashride.  It's up to Mayor Boris now to wrestle some control back from the tyranny of TfL and their lunatic road designs.  Come on Boris, the message was clear; give us streets for people now!

Personal thanks to LCC for their excellent campaign work on this issue, to Cyclists in the City for the constant inspiration.  Thanks to the volunteer marshalls and the Police who kept the slightly miffed traffic at bay.  And thank you, of course, for your support and for coming!

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C Kenyon said...

Great post that captures the spirit of the event. We will prevail and this campaign will be seen as a great accelerator of the cycling renaissance we already have in the city.

Chris Kenyon

Group51 said...

Maybe I don't understand, but does Boris really need to 'wrest' control from TfL? I don't recall the previous Mayor losing control of TfL. Surely Boris just needs to change his policy direction to 'smooth traffic flow'. Looking at the TfL design for Blackfriars, it clearly makes the East to West road very fast indeed. I can imagine drivers flying through that on green. That's why the LCC/T-junctions was rejected.

ibike said...

I was there, the first time in 49 years that I have ever attended anything like a protest.

This was also my first visit to rush-hour London for many years, and I was blown away by the sheer number of cyclists on the streets. Never mind the protest ride, cyclists are EVERYWHERE!

On my way to the start I was struck by the fact that there is nowhere for cyclists to go. You are either sharing a route with hordes of pedestrians (and forced to ride at walking pace) or else you are “running with the bulls” on the road. Never has the need for segregated cycle lanes been clearer.

When's the next one?

ibikelondon said...

@Group51 Thanks for taking the time to comment. Unfortunately the only person who has public accountability who can change the designs on the bridge is Boris, so it is a case of him having to step up and take control. I personally believe there are a lot of quite old school road engineers at TfL who have taken Boris's "smoothing traffic flow" agenda to go wild, which is how we've ended up with a shitty design like Blackfriars.

@ibike Thanks for coming! Your comment in really inspiring. You're quite correct, of course, there are certainly lots and lots of commuting cyclists in London these days - it would be so nice if they all felt invited by the streets, as oppose to feeling that the streets are there to be endured. Thanks for coming on your first protest in 49 years(!!) and being the change.

Let's hope this all helps to make a difference!

Nick Salt said...

Has anybody seen any news articles reporting on the flashride? I've read the articles published before the event in the Guardian and Evening Standard, but nothing reporting what happened and how many people attended.

ibikelondon said...

The police estimate was between 2000 and 2,500 which is pretty spectacular. We will have to wait for news coverage, though I'm not sure what press was there on the night.

Mike Smith said...

Been watching from up here in Edinburgh. Really inspiring. Thanks so much for the campaign. I hope some of the change in London will rub off on Edinburgh's politicians!

People (like me) outside London can still help - by writing to TfL. What else can we do?

Also find out about local campaign groups (e.g. I help (a little bit) with SPOKES).

Richard Mann said...

If we force the street to be bike-friendly, then it can't be big, and it will be genuinely people-friendly. People on bikes need to hold their nerve and demand to be able to use the streets in safety. If we try to make separate cycle tracks, there's a distinct risk that the traffic will remain untamed. We need to be more ambitious than that.

ibikelondon said...

@Richard Mann People have been holding their nerve for 30 years hoping for a fully tamed street, and it's got us where we are today on Blackfriars. This is a major artery in to the city, there *has* to be traffic on this bridge, it's not going to go away. Have you seen the balanced and well compromised plans the LCC have planned? They are a million miles ahead of TfL's plans, and with safe, wide , comfortable space for cycling, a new public square and better pedestrian crossings I think it's about as 'streets for people' as you could ever hope for on such an important and busy road. And 2500 people clearly agreed last night!

Kevin Hickman said...

@Richard Mann I can't visualise that. I don't remember seeing that anywhere I've cycled. Is there a working example of what you're proposing?

Richard Mann said...

The LCC design almost certainly can't handle the 35000 motor vehicles on the bridge (let alone the extra once the traffic from the Embankment joins in). If you want it to be people-friendly, then it has to be simplified. The LCC design might work if there were about 4 lanes each way, but that would be horrible.

Richard Mann said...

@Kevin Is there a working example of a people-friendly 50,000mvpd junction? No, this is uncharted territory. But converting it into a single 3-arm junction is probably the starting point.

ibikelondon said...

Sigh. It's all too easy for us to bicker via comments on blogs about something that *is* a complex junction. The consensus built up around LCC's design is a rare thing indeed and not something to be underestimated. It's been brought about by months of behind the scenes campaigning and negotiation. Richard, I appreciate your concern and your sentiment, but it might be more useful to come down to London yourself if you've got alternative suggestions and help with the cause rather stand from afar and knit worries about 'loosing the road'.

All the best,


townmouse said...

I think we have to start questioning those 35,000 vehicle movements and whether that will still hold in the future, rather than treating them as something that's just _there_ like the weather. As Mark Wagenbur has just pointed out on twitter, Amsterdam traffic has fallen by a third since 1991, while bikes have doubled. Why shouldn't London be aiming for similar cuts? Closing or limiting road capacity cuts traffic in total, especially in a city like London where there are so many other ways for people to get about. Sure we'll never stop Blackfriars from being a major artery, but that doesn't mean we can't have ambitions to lower London's traffic over all, making room for the bikes (and buses, taxis, pedestrians) that will form part of the alternative.

Kevin Hickman said...

The right place for the techie stuff is here I think...

Where LCC are specifically asking for feedback on the proposal.

Pauline said...

I was unable to join the protest yesterday with sadness.
I was knocked off my bike by a car last month at the north end of the bridge. The car was going fast and did a left turn with noticing me in the bike lane. Luckliy I had only had cuts and bruises, I cant believe they are going to increase the speed limit here.

Anonymous said...

Has anybody suggested using the old piers from the LCD railbridge for a combined pedestrian cycle bridge? I admit to not being there recently to see if they still exist or what probs there might be at both ends but it might give an opportunity for safe exits onto the riverside routes at both ends.
Antique railbuff.

ibikelondon said...

@Pauline That's terrible! I hope you heal up soon and feel comfortable enough to get back on your bike. No one should have to endure that sort of thing just to get to work in the morning. Hope you are okay.

@Antique railbuff I believe the old railway bridge piers are now in use as part of the new Blackfriars railways station which spans the whole river and is currently under construction.

Estudio27 Architects said...

Great photos Mark, looks like one hell of an evening. Inspiring stuff.

David Arditti said...

Thanks for a fantastic account Mark of what was a great event. I hope this proves to be a turning-point for cycle provision in the UK.

It is good to see so many UK cycling organisations and campaigners now in step in understanding and promoting the real, practical solutions, as in LCC's excellent design.

Richard Mann really needs to go on a study tour in the Nethertlands to understand how it is possible to combine universal cycling with all the other transport modes in a modern European city.

Vole o'Speed

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