10 June 2009

Bike the strike? Maybe I'll just stay in bed

Ignore the Tube strikers or hate them, you certainly can't like them. Still, I guess it must be tough scraping by on barely twice what I earn, and doing a job that requires you to stay awake for much of the working day. If your view of the strikers is not entirely positive, you might be amused by a very sweary, and very funny, anti-strike spoof of the Jam's 'Going Underground' on YouTube.

In fact, not all Underground lines were out this morning: the Northern Line was running a limited service, which meant the guys handing out those pesky free newspapers were at least still in a job.

But there could be a bonus to the strike as another incentive for the potential cyclist to start biking to work. Various cycling groups were offering guided rides this morning into the centre of town. One, en route from Brixton to the City, passed virtually by our front door at 8.30am (below right), which was at least a reminder to get up.

No doubt there'll be some irritatingly twee news items today featuring a wide-eyed reporter trying out a bike, as well as the inevitable cliches ('London's cyclists say on yer bike to the tube strike', etc). And I'm sure there will indeed be a small, but positive, lasting increase in the number of people cycling to work as a result.

But let's not underestimate the sly opportunism of London's commuters. We asked a couple of regular local cyclists what effects they'd seen on cycling levels this morning. Er, um, actually, seems to be a bit less than usual, they said. Perhaps some of us are using the strike as an excuse to 'work from home', and catch up on all that iPlayer backlog...


  1. Double the amount on my commute today, you can tell that they are not regular cyclists : )

  2. Yes, there are various Twitters out there saying Elephant and Castle was 'like the Tour de France' this morning, though (if you catch a pulse of cyclists from the traffic lights) it usually does feel like that. As it happens I'm not in work today - I'm off down sarf Lannan for a dress rehearsal, which as you know is a Tube desert, so I don't expect I'll see much difference there.

  3. Fewer bikes than usual on Waterloo Bridge, which is weird (they probably all disappeared down the potholes), but at least double the usual in Marylebone. Loads more women than men, which is interesting. Maybe we really are the bolder sex... You can indeed tell they aren't frequent cyclists, bless! All power to them for trying it today, when the car traffic is horrifying.

  4. @Ruth... agree strongly! Interesting observation about the male/female mix too. Of course, bikes have a long history of female empowerment, going back to the 1890s days of rational dress and emancipation (how could you be forcibly chaperoned when you were on a bike?). It would be interesting to know if the male-female split of commuter cycling in London is changing, especially with recent moves to encourage women onto bikes (fashion lines, websites etc).

  5. There were many more cyclists on my route this morning, but the increase in cyclists was far outweighed by the massive increase in the number of cars on the road.

    Based on my experience, it seemed that the drivers were even more inexperienced than most of the new cyclists-- which can be a bit dangerous...

  6. Were the newbies more heavily helmeted than the regulars? I wonder if there'll be a spike in cycle thefts today, with all those bikes in improvised locations secured just by a crappy combination lock?