Wouldn’t it be great, I said back in July, if they just closed the roads in London to cars and let the cyclists come out and play. And – such is the awesome power of the blog – they did. Well, sort of. It wasn’t quite what I had in mind, but it was something. 38,000 cyclists signed up to the Hovis London Freewheel – and from the look of the crowd, either a fair few extra unregistered cyclists joined in, or cyclists are an unconformist bunch who don’t like wearing official red bibs. Either way, the central route was absolutely packed with every type of cyclist imaginable from the cycling club veterans in lycra to little girls on tiny pink bikes via hard-bitten couriers, unicyclists and even someone towing a sound system.
I’d signed up as a volunteer cycling marshall which involved cycling 4 miles to Clapham Common (I think the A-Z should have contour lines; nobody told me there were hills in South London), finding someone who knew what was going on (that was the tricky bit), getting my hi-vis yellow official marshall vest, gathering my group of red-bibbed cycling ducklings and leading them the six miles down to the official entry point (without too many of them humiliatingly overtaking me), regrouping with the other half, cycling the however-many miles it was around the route (among the many things the singularly irritating website doesn’t make clear is the length of the route), lending someone my adjustable spanner, trying in vain to find someone who knew what was going on for the return journey as I was supposed to be leading another group of ducklings back, settling for leading the other half back at my alloted time, cycling the six miles back to Clapham Common (where someone had spent the entire day making the hill longer and steeper), returning my borrowed helmet (they wouldn’t let me marshall without it), picking up my free goody bag (a bag), cycling home and collapsing in a heap.
It was fun. But I got the impression that they hadn’t really thought through the whole cyclist marshall thing. The fact that my ‘how to get there’ instructions included phrases like ‘take the tube to Clapham Common’ and ‘a five minute walk to the hub’ should probably have tipped me off about that. Here’s hoping it’s bigger and better – or just a real free-for-all – next year.
I took some very shaky one-handed pictures on the road, but there’s more here