Get On Your Bike and Ride!

The annual Hackney Schools' cycle ride (c) Tim Webb

The UK has been in lockdown this spring. Our worlds are far smaller than before. 

It reminds me of being a child, needing to tell my parents where I was going, not straying too far away from home. That all changed when I got my first bike! I could explore my village from edge to edge and still be home in time for tea. My world suddenly got bigger, I became an explorer. I’ve been hooked on cycling ever since.


Cycling in the city doesn’t come so naturally for many people though. Without years to build up your confidence, London’s roads can look scary. Parents rarely let their kids out on their bikes alone, and many adults see danger at every junction. Dare I say that some cyclists have a bad reputation in London and so people may be cautious about joining that tribe?

In London, where roads cover 12% of the total area of the city, more land is devoted to roads than to houses and flats1. What if all that space was available to everyone so that they could roam freely and safely on their bikes?

The annual Hackney Schools' cycle ride (c) Tim Webb


During the lockdown so far, I’ve seen many more people out cycling. Families taking their daily exercise together on two wheels. Couples riding Santander Cycles to stretch their legs as an escape from their cramped flats. NHS workers being gifted bikes to help them travel safely to their hospitals. The more people who spend part of their time journeying on a bike and part of their time journeying on their feet, the more we all learn to see the world from different perspectives.

Building cycling infrastrsucture boosts communities, public health and local economies (c) Tim Webb


Many of London’s Councils have been responding positively, creating ‘pop up’ cycle lanes2. The Mayor and TfL are creating segregated cycle lanes on the network of London’s larger roads3. And now the UK Government has announced dramatic plans to encourage more cycling and walking4.

The support and enthusiasm from our politicians at all levels is exciting. But what really makes me positive about the future of cycling in the city is what community groups and local charities are doing around helping people get on their bikes.

  • Cycle Sisters5 encourages muslim women to discover the enjoyment of cycling, boosting their confidence and their fitness.
  • Bikeworks CIC are planning on launching a Ride Side-By-Side6 service for older people to use as an active travel taxi service that they describe as a pedal-powered version of Dial A Ride.
  • Recycle Your Cycle7 and The Bike Project8 take your rusty old bike and give it a new lease of life. One trains up prisoners so that they can become bike mechanics on release, the other donates the bikes to refugees, giving them mobility for free.
  • Bikeability Trust9 runs the government-backed programme that helps us all to learn to cycle.

What if all these changes do lead to more people cycling in London in the future? What if more streets were transformed into mini-Holland schemes like we have seen in Walthamstow10? What if we saw the end of polluted air outside schools as more people switch their cars for pedal power11? What if your GP prescribed cycling to help you lead a healthier and happier lifestyle12?

What if we made the most of these positive desires and locked them in when the lockdown lifts? Send us your ideas using the hashtag #WhatIf.

 London cycle paramedics take a break at Borough Market (c) Tim Webb

David Cope, National Park City Foundation Trustee













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