22 August 2009

Cycle Friday: Stimulating the news cycle

I did the whole Brixton-Russell Sq Cycle Friday yesterday morning (right). This was in contrast to last week, when I just shuffled out to watch it go past my house, yawned, and went back to bed to shout at politicians on Radio 4.

The Cycle Fridays are fun, and I recommend them. They do seem to be succeeding in getting hesitant cyclists on the road and giving them a bit of confidence, and the atmosphere yesterday was good. I can see myself joining in purely for the social side, and the buzz of being with a large group of cyclists. Thanks to the proximity of the Brixton-Russell Sq route to home, I can easily join it as it passes, and it ends very near where I work. I'll do it every Friday from now until my contract finishes. Unfortunately my contract finishes next Friday.

Yesterday was business however - I'm writing it up for a well-known top-class cycling magazine - so I had to cycle away from my house to the start point at Brixton (right). And at Russell Square I couldn't continue on to work because I had a dentist's appointment... back beyond Brixton. After which I did eventually get to work, having done the Cycle Friday route four times.

Still, all enjoyable cycling on a fine sunny day, and interesting to watch the route evolve and change through the course of the morning, gaining a bit more broken glass here, another crisp packet here, a couple more escaped fillings there.

There are some enormous advantages of Cycle Fridays so far unmentioned. The two or three dozen riders yesterday were accompanied by almost the same number of journalists, reporters, bloggers, photographers, AudioBooers, and aspiring film-makers checking out the possibilities. Well, August can be a bit of a quiet month in news media... (The scheme has already, pleasingly, generated quite a bit of approving press coverage.)

So, 20 minutes before the ride started, when all the scribblers, snappers et al had arrived but none of the 'real' cyclists, you had the entertaining scene of them all interviewing each other (right), Whicker Island style.

Then, when the first real cyclist arrived (right), she was swooped on by a dozen of us with cameras, handheld sound recorders, iPhones and notebooks.

So need to go on the X-Factor if you want a taste of stardom: just turn up to a Cycle Friday about ten minutes early disguised as a normal person.

If Cycle Fridays achieve nothing else, at least TfL's value-for-money financial contribution has helped create a few media jobs.

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