Monday, 6 September 2010

Free Wheel - not so fabulous

I’m not much of a cyclist (though, inexplicably, I own two bikes), but yesterday I attended the Free Wheel event in central London. It’s sponsored by Sky (that’s the main thing that’s wrong with it) and I generally had mixed feelings about it.

First off, the positives. It encourages people to get on their bikes and not have to worry about traffic. There are lots of different events to get involved with, stalls to visit etc – my three year old daughter loved the little kids fun section, where she tore around the track on a ‘like-a-bike’.

There were some spectacles to be enjoyed: a punt on wheels and a piano and a bicycle morphed into one melodic, travelling contraption.

Cycling helmets off also to the stewards and the lead riders, who lead big convoys of riders from the start points to the ‘traffic-less’ sections. It was a tricky job and the ones I saw in action were doing great work.

The less positive points now…Although one didn’t have to worry about traffic (as in cars etc), there were so many bikes, wheel to wheel, that you really did have to be on red alert every second so as not to have a collision. Indeed, I saw some people having bumps and falls because of this very problem.

It was great that it was so well-attended, but the feeling I had was that cycling, a solitary pursuit (unless you’re on a tandem, but let’s not quibble here, folks), didn’t really suit this massive, crowded event.

There was also a feeling of ‘organised fun’ – ooh, we’re in the loud zone, everyone ring your bells, wooo! No thanks. Maybe I am just a curmudgeonly misanthrope (actually, there’s no ‘maybe’ about it!) but organised fun makes me want to crawl into a burrow and not come out for a long time…

One more gripe: if the event is about encouraging people out onto the streets to cycle, isn’t this a rather unrealistic introduction? No cars, go-go dancers cavorting in tunnels, penny-farthings sailing past. Actually, that description makes it sound much more fun than it actually was!

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