I went out for a bike ride at 7.45am this morning, thinking that the roads would be nice and clear and I could do my usual schlep down to Richmond Park, followed by a couple of circuits inside the park and then home, which is a fairly do-able 25 miles, or two hours’ riding.
Alas it was not to be. As I headed down towards Roehampton, half the major roads in south-west London seemed to be closed off and it gradually dawned on me that today is the day of the big London cycling event. Sure enough, at various stages on my route, I was held up as groups of men and women in similar attire to me (many slightly svelter than I, admittedly) zoomed past on the closed roads. As an excuse, I’ve been off doing stuff with the army all week so haven’t been in London to pick up the buzz.
Eventually I gave up on Richmond Park and did a route via the South Circular instead, coming back through Westminster, which was more like 15 miles.
The interesting thing was how other road users reacted to the groups of cyclists. Most seemed to take it in fairly good part, but the reaction of a few was extreme. As I was cycling along Kensington Road at the junction at the top of Exhibition Road, the driver of a fairly crappy Volvo decided he was going to pull across me, despite the fact that I was probably within 10 metres of me when he did so. I know he’d seen my because we’d already made eye-contact, and I could also see him angrily reacting after lip-reading the word ‘Twat!’ At the same time, another driver waiting in a fairly short queue of traffic was just leaning on his horn, letting rip.
I enjoy cycling in London. I rarely, if ever, drive further into London than we live and a bicycle is easily the best way to get around quickly, without any worries about parking. In 35 years cycling, I’ve only ever had one serious accident, and that was when a tourist walked into me in a cycle lane in Hyde Park, sending me over the handlebars and into an iron bollard which snapped my shoulderblade, which I think is a reasonable record.
The countryside is different. We have a house in a fairly remote and rural part of South Shropshire, but cycling on the roads there can be terrifying. The A49, which goes from Hereford to Shrewsbury via Leominster and Ludlow is the most frightening road I have ever cycled on, bar none. It’s single carriageway for most of the way but huge 10-wheeler artics busting along at 70-80mph are by no means uncommon and the bow-wave as they pass can damn near blow you off the road.
Anyway, big thanks to the London Cycle Event for ruining my bike ride this morning. Had I known about it, I would have taken part but I certainly will do so next year: the main event is a 100 mile route round London which sounds like quite a challenge.