Although I live and work in Hertfordshire I often visit London and almost invariably take my bike with me on the train. London is vast but I am getting to know my way round quite well. Sometimes I come across the blue painted sections of road which collectively make up the somewhat misleadingly named Barclays Cycle Superhighways. These are cycle routes running from outer London into Central London and according to TfL they “give you safer, faster and more direct journeys into the city and could be your best and quickest way to get to work”. I tend to ride fast and am confident mixing with motorised traffic on any road in London so these bits of blue paint don’t make a great deal of difference to me, but they do seem to give less experienced cyclists the confidence to use roads they otherwise would have avoided. However, the routes leave much to be desired and there have been a number of high profile fatalities.
In the wake of two cycling fatalities in recent weeks the London Cycling Campaign organised a protest ride to remind the Mayor and local councils that Londoners cycling on busy roads need dedicated space to protect them from fast-moving and heavy motor traffic. I learned about yesterday’s ride when someone posted details on the Critical Mass London Facebook group and since I was planning to be in Camden later for a gig I thought I might as well travel in early to take part. In fact a few of the Critical Mass posse arranged to meet at Tottenham Lock at 4.30pm and cycle together to Tower Hill so I decided to join them. Me and a couple of friends boarded a slow train from Hatfield so we could get off at Hornsey, which I figured to be the closest station on the line. We were the first to arrive at the lock but we didn’t have to wait long for the others and six of us set off down the towpath. A couple more riders joined us as we passed the Princess of Wales pub and we had a nice ride down the Lea Navigation and Limehouse Cut before Joining Cycle Super Highway 3 along Cable Street to reach Tower Hill where the LCC ride was assembling.
The protest was well attended and after the obligatory period of milling around we eventually set off for a short ride to Altab Ali Park, stopping for a minute silence near Aldgate East where a French Student was recently killed by a lorry while riding a Barclays Cycle Hire bicycle (commonly known as a Boris Bike) on Cycle Superhighway 2. During the ride there was some organised chanting with a call of “Blue paint” to which the crowd responded “Not enough”. After the ride I heard someone pointing out that after a while it might have sounded like “Not enough blue paint” – which is almost the opposite of the intended meaning. For more photos of the ride check out this report on ibikelondon.
My friends and I hung around in the park for a while before setting off to Cycle to Camden. We followed the inner ring road to Old Street roundabout (where I was once knocked off my bike by a car) but then in order to avoid the hill up to Angel we took Old Street, Clerkenwell Road and Grays In Road to Kings Cross where we dropped down to Regents Canal. Riding the towpath can be very pleasant but at times there are so many pedestrians that you wouldn’t want to do it if you were in a hurry. The section past Camden Lock is particularly well used and cyclists are asked to dismount, but we were not in a rush so I didn’t mind walking the last bit.
Our destination was the inSpiral Cafe where Mal Webb was due to play. I met Mal while working with Bicycology in the Green Fields at Glastonbury in 2011. I loved his blend of music and comedy and was looking forward to seeing him again. A band called Kings Gambit were up first and I enjoyed their set of what they describe as contemporary folk beat music. Mal was as good as I remembered and it was a great night out. We left just after midnight and cycled back down the canal to Kings Cross where we arrived just in time to catch the penultimate fast train. It was a bit of a struggle getting on with our bikes because the carriages were packed with people who had just come from seeing someone called Justin Timberlake at the Yahoo! Wireless Festival 2013 – I guess it takes all sorts!