Fun for all at FreeCycle as London’s streets fill up with bicycles
It was a rare sight for central London – thousands of beaming cyclists gliding through empty, car-free roads, enjoying its famous landmarks under sunny, blue skies at Ford RideLondon FreeCycle.
The event, a joyous celebration of the bike, attracted riders of all backgrounds, ages and abilities, who hit the free, eight-mile circuit amid a festival atmosphere and to the collective sound of whirring wheels.
Designed to inspire more people to hop on a bike and pedal towards more active lives, the event was popular with families, children and inexperienced riders, who said it gave them the confidence to explore central London safely on two wheels.
Jennifer Raj, from Chelmsford, who took part with her three young children, said: “This gives us a chance to cycle along the roads in central London safely and see the sights. Normally it’s too dangerous with children, but this gets us out together as a family to enjoy some fresh air. There aren’t many sports you can do together as a family, so this is brilliant.”
This was her second FreeCycle event with her seven-year-old son Freddie. He said: “I was excited to come back this year because last year I saw someone on a unicycle and someone cycling with spitfire wings. It was so cool, and I remember that. It’s so fun here.”
The two Festival Zones along the route, at Bank and St Paul’s, treated riders to a gospel choir, food stalls, face-painting, steel drummers and other entertainment – whipping up a fun-filled atmosphere to remember. Meanwhile, at the Ford RideLondon HUB at Trafalgar Square, the festivities included exciting bike-based activities and street entertainers.
For others, the FreeCycle event will hopefully mark the start of a life-long journey on the bicycle. Callum Brown, 26, from Hackney, only decided to join the event on Saturday (27 May) night, but has been inspired to take up cycling regularly.
He said: “It’s a great way to see the city in a different way and meet new people. After this, the plan is to get a bike with the Cycle to Work Scheme – this event is a nice way to ease into cycling, which I don’t normally do. Cycling is also a social thing, as there are a lot of cycling groups in the workplace, and it’s a way for everyone to meet up and make activity a part of the working day.”
For Katterina Bobeva, 45, from Stratford, it was a chance to soak up the heart of the city without the usual hustle and bustle, and enjoy all the famous landmarks along the way, such as Admiralty Arch, the Bank of England, Buckingham Palace, The Mall, St Paul’s Cathedral, Somerset House and Trafalgar Square.
Taking part with her daughter Konar, seven, she said: “You get to see London from a different view. Normally, everyone is rushing around the city, and you don’t get to enjoy London, but today there’s so much pleasure, clean air. People are smiling everywhere; they are so kind and you can relax and enjoy your bike.”
Isabelle Clement, director of Wheels for Wellbeing, an inclusive cycling charity, cycled to the event from Streatham on her wheelchair, which has a clip-on handcycle.
She said: “There’s a buzz, it’s a big jamboree festival and you get to enjoy central London without the worry of cars or congestion. We want to show people who don’t cycle much that there’s support for disabled people who want to cycle and if they see or hear about today’s event, it may encourage them to join next year.”
Many cycled into the centre from various London boroughs on a Led Ride , guided by volunteers from the London Cycling Campaign, as part of Ford’s Park the Car campaign, which encourages drivers to leave their car at home for short journeys and to cycle instead.
The event takes place on the final day of Ford RideLondon, the world’s greatest cycling festival, which also features mass-participation rides in London and Essex as well as the Ford RideLondon Classique, a three-day pro women’s race attracting the best female riders in the world.