15 August 2009

Cycle Fridays' glimpse of the year 2060

Yesterday was London's first Cycle Friday, a series of weekly led rides from now until 2 October encouraging commuters to bike into work. There are six routes, covering Zone 1-2 like a monster snowflake, each starting at 8am and converging in central London. It's a development of the one-off Bike Tube ride staged in response to the Tube drivers' strike in June.

Now, 8am is clearly far too early for me - I'm working temporarily at the British Library. This is a place where 'early modern' means 1500. However, the Brixton-Russell Sq route happens to go past our house, so I shuffled out in my dressing gown and slippers, watched it go past, and then went back to bed.

There were about 50 riders, I'd say. Many of them, refreshingly, were wearing everyday clothes. Some really could have passed for normal people. This is exactly the sort of commuting I like to see, especially when I can amble back for a stimulating breakfast of leftover curry.

The more I think about Cycle Fridays, the more I think they're a pretty good idea. They cost nothing to organise, apart from some volunteer time. As a participant you don't have to commit to anything, and you can join or leave the route at any point. I can see many regular cycle commuters tagging on for a bit just for a bit of company and a quick chat. I can also see nervous cyclists quickly getting confidence to break out on their own. (Actually they have to learn fast. There's no return trip - Friday night London tends to be a spontaneous and stay-out affair - so you're on your own on your way back.)

Scalability is no problem either. If you can get the volunteers, you can add more routes, more days of the week, and more setting-off times, no problem. New routes can incorporate bike-hire stations when the London Bike Hire Scheme comes onstream next May.

Who knows, if the scheme takes off, we might see TfL's ambitious target of quintupling cycle use between 2000 and 2025, with the percentage of cycle journeys rocketing from, er, 1 per cent to 5 per cent. So by 2060, it'll be the Netherlands every day in London, with half of all trips by bike!

Maybe I'll be a sort of Harry Patch or Henry Allingham of cycling then, and they'll interview me as the last survivor of the car/bike trench-warfare of the early millennium, before CO2-sequestering anti-gravity flying pocket bikes were invented.

Anyway, I'm confident the Cycle Fridays scheme will be extended to the rest of the week and next year will be called something else. If only because nobody's yet snapped up cyclefriday or cyclefridays.com, .co.uk, .net or .org. Oh, the temptation for mischief, when you can snap up a free-host domain name for a fiver...


  1. I do think this is an excellent idea. The best part of the London Freewheel (the first one anyway) was the marshalled rides to and from the event. I say this even though I was a marshall and they made me wear a helmet to set a good example...

  2. I don't think the marshalls are volunteers-- the Camden Cycling Campaign mailing list passed on a soliciation from the mayor's office that was offering pay. I don't know how much.

  3. Such a good idea. Its a shame they didn't start it earlier in the summer. The cost must be minimal, but the benifits of getting more people on their bike is massive.
    Hopefully it will run all of next spring/summer. I wonder if it would be worth keeping going over the winter?