Six of us met up at Dulwich Clock Cafe at our new earlier start time of 9.30am to do this year's Open House ride. It was rather a drizzly day. 10 people had registered on letsride.co.uk, but there were three last minute cancellations. Fortunately, our numbers were augmented by a new person who had come from as far afield as North London to join us. We had hoped we could welcome a resident of the London Borough of Southwark on our ride, but, on this occasion, it was not to be.
It is great news that 55 "Healthy Riders" used the Missing Link to do a long picnic ride:
But how many of these "Healthy Riders" should now be migrating to doing "full-on" rides to places like Nell's Cafe and Rochester?:
When Barry Mason was in charge of Southwark Cyclists he would never have restricted the majority of rides to being just two hours long. This is what bike politics is all about - not campaigning to get policy makers to change their minds, but rather campaigning to get campaigners to change their mind! As Barry Mason said: "Time passes. LCC still seems unable to find its way and has forgotten what its last initial stands for. The golden opportunity to relaunch itself after the failed coup has been wasted. LCC's local groups are increasingly doing it for themselves, or not at all." (see https://groups.yahoo.com/neo/groups/greenwichcyclists/conversations/mess...)
Our riders had come from all over London - from Brent, Islington, Camden, Croydon, Lambeth, Greenwich, Bromley, Bexley, Kensington & Chelsea and Newham, to be specific.
We were able to make use the brand new "missing link" elevated walkway, by the Thames Barrier:
Perhaps next year, when we do this ride again, we can see whether we can beat Southwark and Bexley Cyclists record of 55 people using the "missing link" for a ride!:
Perhaps, by next year, we will have become so good a doing longer rides that we can brand ourselves as an elite cycling group - "I've never been on a ride before where someone has drunk Sanpellegrino"!
We stopped off for lunch at Nell's Cafe, Gravesend:
We were then taken on a ride where we visited Rochester Castle, Chatham Historic Dockyards, St Mary's Island and Fort Amherst:
The ride was part of a series run by the Cyclists in Southwark group, which has been formed to allow those of us who live within cycling distance of Southwark to meet up in Southwark and Cutty Sark Gardens and do rides similar to, but much longer than, the rides that are organised by Southwark Cyclists.
Appearances can be deceptive! Our anarchistic attempt to get Southwark Cyclists to a "Healthy Ride+" on a day when they are supposed to do just a "normal" "Healthy Ride" did not appear to meet with much success. But ensuing discussions amongst the riders concluded that there might be thousands of cyclists who have done rides such as the London to Brighton ride, but who are finding it difficult to find a suitable cycling club in the area that they can join.
On this occasion, several Southwark Cyclists had turned up half an hour early for their ride and we were able to talk to them. However, although one declared herself to be an "interloper" and we thought that was exactly the sort of person we need in our cycling group, this was to no avail and she wanted to go on the 10am ride. Another person said she had been on our rides before, but she too wanted to go on the 10am ride. Someone else said he might have come on our ride if it had been a bit shorter, but didn't want to spend 4 hours doing a ride. So there were just two of at the Dulwcih Clock Cafe start point who boldly set out on our ride to Keston. The only problem was it was difficult to retrieve my bicycle as there were not enough bike racks and my bike had been surrounded by Southwark Cyclists' bikes and was trapped in a pincer movement (https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Pincer_movement).
Fortunately there were couple of new people who saved the day by breaking ranks with those who were trying to impose a communications blackout on Cyclists in Southwark. One had been intrigued by all the things we had been saying on Facebook! We had first to climb the massive hill to get over to Forest Hill, where we found that the "P' word was much in evidence on the sign posts. We then joined the Waterlink Way which took us to Beckenham Place Mansion, we were met by a third rider. We then went past Shortlands and Bromley Town Centre to the A21 cycle path and folloed this to Farnborough and High Elms. We saw some stewards ushering in cars to a Bexley Round Table event and thought isn't this Bromley not Bexley? When we climbed up the hill from High Elms to Downe we were over taken by a group of about six Dulwich Paragon Riders and though surely this is Bromley, not Southwark. We did attempt to keep up with them, but to no avail.
We soon reached the the Hollywood Farm Coffee shop, where we were joined by a fourth rider, who had been on our Biggin Hill Airshow ride. The year long boycott of our rides by Southwark Cyclists is causing problems for us as none of our riders has ever been on a Southwark Healthy Ride and this means that means that they have great difficulties in finding places such as the Dulwich Clock Cafe, which are located in the heart of Southwark.
Our discussions are starting to reveal how Cyclists in Southwark fits in the tapestry of cycling groups in London. Whereas Southwark Cyclists is using Dr Bike sessions and "Healthy Rides" as a means to get new people involved in cycling, Cyclists in Southwark is using a different approach to find new riders. Thousands of people are being attracted to cycling by doing longer rides like the London to Brighton one, however they appear to be having serious problems finding a suitable cycling club to join. Many cycling clubs are "full-on" ones and segregate women into "women-only" sections, or are located in far-flung pats of SE London (eg. Penge/Bromley, Limited Edition/Greenwich and Sidcup/Bexley), which is very inconvenient for those of us who live in boroughs such as Southwark, Lambeth, Camden, Westminster, Kensington & Chelsea, Tower Hamlets and Newham.
On the way back it was mostly downhill and it didn't take long for us to reach Beckenham Place Mansion and the Waterlink Way. At Bell Green we split up as we were all from different boroughs - Lambeth, Camden, Lewisham and Tower Hamlets.