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Cyclists take to streets across England to urge politcians to improve conditions for people on bikes

Around 5,000 cyclists yesterday took to the streets of London yesterday in the Space for Cycling Big Ride organised by the London Cycling Campaign, calling on candidates in next week’s local elections to pledge to improve conditions for people on bikes. Similar rides took place in other major cities across England, including Bristol, Leeds, Manchester, Newcastle, Sheffield and York

There was a carnival atmosphere in the capital on a sunny spring afternoon, with 30 feeder rides converging on the start in Central London, scheduled for noon but starting 15 minutes late as more cyclists arrived to set off on the traffic-free route.

LCC chief executive Ashok Sinha said: “We owe a debt of gratitude to the thousands who joined us today on our Space for Cycling Big Ride, helping to send a powerful message to London's politicians.

“Our city and borough leaders can be in doubt as to the hunger there is from ordinary Londoners for streets that are safe and inviting for everyone to cycle.

“A special thanks must go to the hundreds of volunteers who helped make the day such a success, without whom we couldn’t have made the Space for Cycling Big Ride happen. >

“So far, over 2,500 local election candidates have backed our 629 ward-specific Space for Cycling measures to improve local streets for cycling, so now it’s time to see the action and funding that match the desires of Londoners.”

LCC said that the ride, which passed through Piccadilly Circus, Trafalgar Square and Parliament Square before ending with a rally on the Embankment, could not have taken place without the backing of the sponsors of its Space for Cycling campaign, Evans Cycles, the Dutch Embassy to the UK, and the Bicycle Association.

Hundreds turned out in other cities across the country where local campaigners had organised their own rides. Bristol Cycling Campaign issued a late call for cyclists to take part in a ride around the city centre yesterday to coincide with those taking place elsewhere.

The ride concluded with a “Freedom to Ride” petition with more than 4,000 signatures being handed in to the city’s assistant mayor, Gus Hoyte. Bristol City Council will debate it in July.

In Newcastle, around 150 cyclists of all ages took part in the Big Toon Ride. Katya Leyendecker, chair of Newcastle Cycling Campaign, said: "What an amazing turnout, what a buzz.

“When the Big Toon Ride coordination group first got together, we would not have dreamt to get 150 cyclists supporting, in person, the Space for Cycling campaign and Big Ride in such numbers. But we did it!

“What a colourful brilliant crowd turned out. Young, old, bicycle, tricycle, trailers, child seats, mothers, fathers, everyone was there. Cycling and walking really do deserve to take centre stage in our city.

"I am sure the politicians in charge of highways were watching this event carefully. They will now know, more than ever, that cyclists want to see change. We cycled today for a better future in our city tomorrow, for our children, for an altogether healthier transport mix.

“Cllr Marion Talbot, who helped coordinate the Big Ride, and Cllr Steve Fairlie and Cllr Rob Higgins all showed their support on the day. The message, support and urgency to action Space for Cycling is spreading.

"The pavements were bursting with pedestrians, who cheered us on - people deserve more space. We know that bicycle use is currently suppressed due to lack of safe cycleways and sensible space for cycling. Yet cycling is such a space-efficient way of travelling from A to B and Newcastle must make use of it.

She added: “I, on behalf of Newcycling, want to say a huge massive Thank You to everyone who attended and cheered us on from the roadside!"

Born in Scotland, Simon moved to London aged seven and now lives in the Oxfordshire Cotswolds with his miniature schnauzer, Elodie. He fell in love with cycling one Saturday morning in 1994 while living in Italy when Milan-San Remo went past his front door. A daily cycle commuter in London back before riding to work started to boom, he's been news editor at road.cc since 2009. Handily for work, he speaks French and Italian. He doesn't get to ride his Colnago as often as he'd like, and freely admits he's much more adept at cooking than fettling with bikes.