To help promote Bike Week this ride was organised by the All Party Parliamentary Cycling Group, of which Cambridge’s MP, Julian Huppert, is one of the co-chairs.
Leaving early to get to the South Bank by 8am, we found ourselves enjoying a networking breakfast of pastries, rather under-ripe fruit and a hot drink among the increasingly familiar faces of national cycling promotion.
British Cycling (which has around 20,000 members, mostly representing racing cyclists) staged a media event in which a team of children raced a team of MPs to strip and re-fit a tyre and inner tube to a wheel. The short video at http://cycle.st/p31319 shows the MPs just pipping the children, but the children getting more applause.
Among the crowd assembling for the start of the ride I noticed transport commentator Christian Wolmar and former world champion cyclist Chris Boardman. Tens of MPs, a few Lords, CTC staff members, some journalists, local authority officers and many campaign activists from London and much further afield made up the rest of the peloton.
The ride left the London Eye and went via Blackfriars Bridge, the Embankment and The Mall to Parliament. We were marshalled by the Metropolitan Police’s Cycle Task Force who all seem to enjoy their plum role and did a really excellent job of holding back the glum-faces of motorists (and other cyclists) as our ride was waved through.
Cycling journalist, Carlton Reid (who spoke at a campaign monthly meeting last year) collared Norman Baker as the ride crossed Blackfriars Bridge – watch the interview on the Bike Biz website via this short link: http://goo.gl/WyTFv
At Parliament we were permitted to take our bikes into the car park and went to take part in a question and answer session in a committee room with the Parliamentary Under-Secretary for the Department for Transport, Norman Baker (Liberal Democrat MP for Lewes).
The Campaign’s Jim Chisholm was among the few who got in a question, asking whether Norman’s Department would enable a provision in existing legislation that would allow all infringements of mandatory cycle lanes to be policed by civil enforcers and even fixed cameras. Norman didn’t have the answer – but a nod ensured that his aide scribbled down some notes and got Jim’s email address for a follow up.
Other activists asked about Blackfriars Bridge, which is the subject of a big campaign by London Cycling Campaign opposing proposals to raise the speed limit from 20 to 30mph. Another asked about the threat from longer lorries, which also concerns us here in Cambridge.
While Norman didn’t have all the answers it was clear that this event is hugely important for raising the issue of cycling with people in a position to do something about it. Well done to CycleNation, CTC, and EDF Energy who sponsor Team Green Britain Bike Week for organising it.