Boris’s Cycle Friday in Greenwich

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After reading that the mayor’s Cycle Friday initiative hadn’t quite taken off as Boris Johnson had hoped, I wandered down to Cutty Sark Gardens this morning to see how the Greenwich leg was doing. It’s a scheme to help new cyclists get used to London’s roads, by having marshalled rides starting at 8am each morning from various points across inner London. One runs from central Greenwich to St Paul’s Cathedral.

Well, some 16 cyclists set off towards Deptford just after eight o’clock – including at least one marshal and one other person who was checking people’s bikes for safety. Plus there were two people flyering the event at Cutty Sark station. So, at the most, that’s 14 genuine cyclists, and four people to run and promote the event. Hard to say that it’s a waste of cash – if those 14 people take up cycling to work for good, then that’s 14 fitter people and less pressure on the public transport system. And if a different 14 people are on the scheme each week, then that could add up to a handy number. So, despite practical quibbles (it’s no good if you’re unsure about cycling to Greenwich or cycling onwards from St Paul’s, for example) this could be a good thing, although it’ll clearly need some refinement if the exercise is to be repeated.

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But while I was sat watching the cyclists get their bikes checked out, in the 10 minutes I was there, at least 16 cyclists headed towards the Greenwich Foot Tunnel. That’s the same Greenwich Foot Tunnel which is set for closure as part of a refurbishment scheme. And the same foot tunnel that Boris is reluctant to step in to help the hundreds of cyclists who use it each day. It seems like once the mayor has helped you to get to grips with cycling, you’re going to be left on your own after that. (UPDATE: See this on tunnel “scaremongering” from Tory Troll.)

But still, hopefully the 14 cyclists on Cycle Friday will pick up the habit – it was a lovely morning for it. Me, I turned around and got the bus home…

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7 comments

  1. On the Greenwich and Woolwich foot tunnels, it may not surprise you that a certain amount of scaremongering has been going on.

    From Boris’s latest written answers to Assembly members:

    “The London Borough of Greenwich, who are responsible for maintaining the tunnels, will begin the main tunnel refurbishment works early in 2010 and these are expected to finish later that year. Lift closures are not anticipated before June 2010. Greenwich expect to close only one lift per tunnel at a time. Most work will take place while the tunnels remain open although there may be a need for limited tunnel closures at times when it is not safe to carry out work, even behind hoardings. In the meantime, Greenwich is discussing with Thames Clippers their plans for alternative river crossing arrangements during the period of closure.”

    and

    “Much of the problem is due to the suggested closure of both the Greenwich and Woolwich tunnels simultaneously, although it is understood that Greenwich Council are reviewing the arrangements and seeking to limit the number of times when the foot tunnels will be completely closed and that these closures will be short in duration.”

    It hardly amounts to the tunnels being closed for “up to 18 months” as widely repeated.

  2. Also, it’s worth pointing out that the Cycle Friday scheme comes to an end in two weeks time so any chances of it adding up to a handy number are pretty slim.

    Great news for those 14 lucky Londoners. Not much use to the millions left without any decent cycle infrastructure.

  3. I used cycle Fridays a fortnight ago from Cutty Sark and today cycled to north London using a version of their route. I thought it was fantastic and really, 14 is a start isn’t it?

  4. Doh, memory like a sieve! I’ve been meaning to track up to town with these guys, I was free yesterday morning and I completely forgot!

    But I used to commute up along the river, more or less along the NCR4 route. I never got over the sheer sense of space that you get cycling alongside the river – I had to pinch myself to remind myself that I was actually cycling into one of the world’s major cities because the route was almost entirely deserted.

    BTW, greenwichcyclists.org.uk will be passing the Cutty Sark Gardens at 10:45am on their way to the London Skyride on Sunday, 20 September. The guys organising the Skyride would prefer it if you register first but you’re welcome to just turn up and get a taste of a traffic-free ride in London (from Tower Hill to Buckingham Palace – http://new.britishcycling.org.uk/skyride/london )

    Happy cycling!

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