The joy of… RideLondon’s FreeCycle 2013

RideLondon FreeCycle ARH2013-08-03 140833-FT4-130069 (resized)It was a joy to see kids keen about something other than computers and amusement parks: many were cycling through London today at a special event…

The powers that be closed the central roads in London to motorised traffic so that people on bicycles could have a ride around a designated route in a quieter atmosphere – that is, without the stress of having noisy, smelly, sometimes aggressively driven, big metal boxes bearing down on you.

It was called FreeCycle, the first event of a weekend of bicycle related activities during RideLondon on 3rd and 4th August 2013.

Our kids liked:

  • the slow pace at times, the races at times (watch out Wiggins & Froome!)
  • fun things like the sofa bicycle (really!)
  • music and bands throughout the route – especially the steel drums Ebony performing near St Paul’s Cathedral
  • the friendly nature of the crowd (there were thousands packed in, all pedalling happily)
  • the break points – festival sites – at Green Park, St Paul’s Cathedral and Tower Bridge

Sofa bikeUs, as parents, liked:

  • the brilliant route which took in so many of London’s landmarks – well signposted and marshalled
  • the free water bottle refill stations
  • the organisation, that is the efficient wardens to balance people’s needs: ones wanting to ride the course and ones just out by foot to enjoy a car-free London
  • Green Park – the good selection of foods, the secure bicycle parking, the large space to forget you are there with thousands
  • the friendly atmosphere where people of all interests – sometimes conflicting – could enjoy the day: fast riders, families,…
  • people interacting well: kids were weaving in and out happily, and there was a huge tolerance of all the various abilities.

The most amazing thing was this: Seeing so many of London’s iconic landmarks in one free-flow connection, which you usually only see one at a time.

Steel drums - Ebony bandSpotted in The City: a person dressed like a stereotypical banker with suit, tie & briefcase with a sour look on his face obviously disapproving the entire festivity, trying to cross the street used as the main cycle route. Was there a time machine hidden nearby or was he an alien? Or perhaps just an actor? Who knows!

This event has been promised to become an annual occurrence. We wonder:

  • If we go and tell our friends how much we enjoyed the day, and many others do too, then can the organisers cope with a doubling (at least!?) of participants next year?
  • Would they consider an extended route, to reduce the density of riders? For example, over Tower Bridge to the south bank?
  • Would the oranisers choose a different freebie for registered participants? The police, marshalls and medical staff all wore yellow HiViz tops (occasional marshals riding the route were spotted in a slightly different colour) just like participants – our kids would have a difficult time knowing who to go to for help if they had been lost. They did though make our kids stand out when they were climbing the blue trees at St. Paul’s Cathedral!
  • Could the organisers find a park or large location at the East end of the route for food and fun, equivalent to Green Park’s facilities this year?

RideLondon FreeCycle ARH2013-08-03 132924-FT4-130021 (resized)What would we do different at next year’s event?

  • Wear a more outrageous, colourful element on our clothing so family members can be spotted more easily – a fancy hat perhaps?
  • Decorate our bicycles – streamers on the wheels? Flags?
  • Get closer in to the start of the route (we cycled on CS8 from & back to Putney; and even though our kids coped well with ‘vehicular cycling’, they made clear they preferred the traffic-free central London area more! And who wouldn’t? Clearly there’s a need for more Dutch-style SpaceForCycling!)

The fancy bicycles – especially the sofa-bike and music bikes – were an inspiration and made us laugh!

No doubt that future years will see many more exotic bicycles being ridden around. Our thanks and congratulations to the organisers. Can’t wait til next year!

Update 4 Aug 2013: You can read about our not-as-much-joy cycle ride from Putney into the RideLondon FreeCycle event HERE.

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