According to Metropolitan Police estimates, between 1,500 and 2,000 cyclists participated in tonight’s flashride from The Mall to the Houses of Parliament, where tomorrow evening MPs are due to hold a three-hour debate on the issue of cycle safety.
The ride, which left the Duke of York’s Steps at 6.30pm, was organised by the bloggers Danny Williams of Cyclists In The City and Mark Ames of I Bike London and was supported by the London Cycling Campaign, members of which helped marshal the event.
Williams was interviewed live from Parliament Square on BBC London News this evening, a seemingly endless procession of cyclists rolling past in the background.
Earlier today in the House of Commons, a hundred yards or so from where Williams was standing, Prime Minister David Cameron had said that he believed those who chose to cycle in Britain’s cities were aware that they were taking their life in their hands.
Asked if he agreed with that view, Williams said: “I thought he was completely spot-on. He’s absolutely right that it’s quite difficult to cycle in UK cities.
He continued: “The thing is it absolutely shouldn’t be difficult to cycle in the UK and that’s a factor of how much investment we put into the UK, which has been pretty minimal and pretty patchy.”
The Prime Minister had also highlighted investment that the government had recently made in cycling initiatives, but Williams was adamant that the amount of money set aside was woefully inadequate.
“If you think about £25 million, which is what he talked about today, for the whole of the country that’s equivalent to what, a train carriage…? It’s not really going to make a huge difference.”
The difference between the amount of money set aside here compared to our neighbours across the North Sea in the Netherlands was highlighted to the BBC by Eleanor Besley of Sustrans.
“We’ve currently got people being very supportive, the Prime Minister backed the campaign from The Times, but now we’ve got to see where the funding is going to go long-term,” she explained.
She added: “In the Netherlands they spend about £10 to £20 a head on making cycling safer and here it’s only £1 – a bit more in some places, but not much, and we need to see that money on the table.
Tomorrow’s adjournment debate, which will be attended by Transport Minister Norman Baker, whose portfolio includes responsibility for cycling, was tabled by Dr Julian Huppert, co-chair of the All-Party Parliamentary Cycling Group following the launch of The Times newspaper’s Cities Fit For Cycling campaign.
Representatives of The Times, which is publishing a dedicated supplement on its campaign tomorrow, were present at tonight's ride, as well as Brompton Bicycle, which is sponsoring the newspaper's initiative, as well as the Metropolitan Police - all of them described in a tweet by Ames afterwards as "fantastic."
Asked by the BBC what he hoped tomorrow's debate would achieve, Williams said: “What I’d really like to see is MPs thinking about ‘can my child cycle to school?’ I’d argue that in the UK at the moment, they can’t. The Prime Minister says they do. Really, they out to be.”
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.