The weekend before the mayoral election on 3 May saw a surge in cycling-related activities organised by the London Cycling Campaign (LCC), in an effort to prioritise safer cycling in the minds of voters.
The Big Ride on Saturday in central London was attended by roughly 10,000 people, and was in support of a campaign – Love London, Go Dutch – to get the 2012 mayoral candidates to “commit to continental-standard cycling infrastructure in the capital”. The five main mayoral candidates had committed to the campaign by the time the ride was held, four days before the election on 3 May. Spreading the safer cycling message further, there was also a more local event taking place in Haringey on Sunday 29 April: the Spring Bike Ride.
There wasn’t much sign of spring in the air on the cold, rainy Sunday morning. Nevertheless, two bicycle mechanics were in the Green Lens Studio in Haringey where the ride was to start from, dispensing free bike services for those brave enough to tackle the 23-mile route, which would end at a pub in Broxbourne. Hunched over upturned bikes, they diagnosed various ailments with pronouncements such as “spongy front brakes” and “missing bolts”. They also checked tyres and fitted free replacement parts while chatting to the cyclists, who were already drenched after the journey to the studio. A free breakfast was also on hand.
Free stuff is always great especially during a recession. Apart from the breakfast and the services, other freebies included bike bells, puncture repair kits, sash-belts, reflective jackets and bags. The mechanics, from the Dr Bike service, were provided by Haringey council, which is holding regular free maintenance sessions on Sundays at Finsbury Park, Priory Park and Downhills Park this summer.
Haringey’s ride involved a collaboration between the LCC, Haringey Council’s Smarter Travel team and Green Lens Studios. The studio is run in an eco-friendly way, providing clients with energy-efficient facilities for photoshoots and art projects, and only exhibits sustainable work. It also promotes eco-friendly transport methods, like cycling, and has organised several rides since it opened.
Evgeniy Kazanni, 33, the photographer who runs the studio together with his partner Marianne Berglund, said that the dialogue with Haringey Council began after he met one of the sustainable transport officers from the Haringey Smarter Travel team. They have been supporting the studio’s bike events and the officer he’s been communicating with recently has been “extremely enthusiastic” and “very helpful”.
One of the Dr Bike mechanics, Toni Blake, 60, said: “The people don’t pay for the parts, that’s included in what Haringey pays to our company. On an average Dr Bike [service], we’ll maybe use a brake cable or two, a couple of little bits and pieces…and maybe an inner tube if there’s a really bad puncture.” Regarding limits on expenditure, she said: “It averages out. We do basic checks, and basic services. So if there’s a queue of people, we’re not going to spend more than 15 minutes on a bike, so we’re not going to do a lot of detailed work.”
They don’t carry around bulky replacement parts, but if someone were to bring with them a replacement tyre, they would fit it for free.
The ride was not very well attended because of the lousy weather, but a few took up the challenge. Cristabel, 24, a worker at SusTrans (sustainable transport) who cycles to work every day, said: “I live in Haringey, and I’m a keen cyclist, and I also want to get involved in this kind of thing in my area, which I haven’t done much of.”