When Mayor of London Boris Johnson failed to show for this morning?s (Tuesday, June 10) annual Parliamentarian Bike Ride in London, we wondered if he was simply dodging the cycling lobby which has a growing list of concerns.
Such as how will he turn London into a cycling city and last but not least, will he bring the Tour de France back, as his predecessor, Ken Livingstone promised to do? But no Boris, so no answers.
It was left to the usual stalwarts to take to the Capital?s truly appalling traffic-congested streets to promote National Bike Week, which kicks off on Saturday (June 14-22).
Led by Emily Thornberry, MP for Islington, and chair of the Parliamentary cross-party cycling group, 50 or 60 MPs, Lords, Baronesses, and guests from the cycling world, held a breakfast rendevous at the Department for Transport?s offices before pedalling off into the traffic, chatting about this and that, laughing and joking as you do when cycling.
We were accompanied by a paramedic on a bike, plus a five-man escort from the Met?s Police Bicycle Division! If you want a demonstration of how to ride with confidence, these guys were the business. They just rode out in front of three lanes of traffic to bring the whole lot to a stop. Mind you, being a cop in uniform probably helps.
For the rest of the Capital?s cycling population riding in London means adopting a gungho attitude to get through streets crammed with fuming vehicles prone to making short bursts at high speed across gaps.
But for the growing number who chose to do this, the bike is their salvation and they have kissed goodbye to crowded public transport.
Just mind the bendy buses, which brings me back to Boris who wasn?t here today.
He promised to get rid of the bendy buses, which have killed cyclists and pedestrians in London.
But then to the consternation of cyclists, he?s now decided to allow motorbikes into bus lanes, the safety zone of cyclists!
This has disappointed the London Cycling Campaign crew who were out in force on the Parliamentary ride, led by their director Koy Thompson and transport campaign Tom Bogdanowicz.
Boris has managed not to return any of LCC?s calls since he became London Mayor, on the promise that he would uphold former Mayor Ken Livingstone?s plans to make London a truly cycling city.
But in constrast to LCC?s concerns, Philip Darnton, chair of Cycling England, was upbeat in advance of a government announcement expected during Bike Week.
?We expect transport minister Ruth Kelly to announce the 10 new cycling development towns,? said Darnton.
This is the second phase of Cycling England?s plan following their success with their first six cycling towns. This prompted the government to award Cycling England £140 million to expand their work.
The theme of the Parliamentary ride this year was to publicise the work of Cycle Training UK, the Lambeth-based cycle training company. Their work instils confidence into new and long-time cyclists alike, by teaching them how to behave in traffic.
So the ride headed for Cycle Training UK?s base, a couple of miles south, across the Thames, where a dozen Parliamentarians volunteered as guinea pigs for instructors to explain the basics.
From there it was just a short ride back across the Thames via Westminster Bridge, where the column rode cheerily past machine-gun totting officers through the MPs gate into Palace Yard and ride?s end.
We rode an assortment of machines. Those without their own bikes rode the bright yellow and green oybike company?s steeds. OyBike is a bicycle rental system gradually spreading to towns across the UK. First 30 minutes free, up to an hour £2, and so on.
Adam Coffman of the All Party Parliamentary Cycling Group Secretariat rode a monster electric-powered assisted trike with a trailer carrying one brave photographer.
Prize for the most horrible bike went to CTC Director Kevin Mayne riding what he cheerfully calls his ?theft repellent? machine. This was a dirty, battered tiny frame ? I?ll spare the maker the embarrassment of identifying the make – scuffed saddle, crooked-looking drop handlebars with different faded coloured handlebar tape.
Probably the coolest machine on the road was the new Trek electric-assisted bike supplied by Cytronex. Check out www.no-hills.com
This all black machine retails for £995 and is a much improved and far lighter bike than earlier developments from other manufacturers, which were too heavy to lift! This one weighed in at just 17kg, which is a few kilograms more than hybrid.