A few days ago I received an email from Barnet Cyclists about the 5th Greenacre Bicycle Rally. Given that the starting point was literally only two miles down the road by the Arts Depot in North Finchley it was the perfect opportunity to meet some other local cyclists, so on Saturday night I followed the link in the email and registered for the event. As it turned out I was one of over a hundred other people to do so. It was also the first time I’d ever been on an event like this and I had no idea what to expect. Would I be able to keep up with everyone?
Having woken up later than intended I didn’t have a huge amount of time to get ready. I wasn’t feeling brilliant, would it be worth it? What about other things that needed doing at home? In the end, with the deadline for registering my presence at the event coming ever closer I decided to make a move and get out there.
As it turned out I arrived in good time and while there were a reasonable number of people gathering outside the Arts Depot there wasn’t exactly a big queue for registration.
It was a real mixture of people and bikes there, from very young to very old. This really was a family event, and quite a festive one with the Bike Doctor there and different machines being decorated with flags, windmills and stickers – although none matched that of one of the organisers. Mike had a trailer attached to his bike festooned with all sorts of colourful items, not to mention an amplifier and CD player which blasted out a whole series of songs from the sixties, including for most of the way around the rides we did. Later on during the ride as he headed up the procession he did remind me somewhat of a modern day Pied Piper. A little bit of Hippy heaven if ever there was!
The contrast with Mike was the rather more formal presence of the Mayor of Barnet to cut the string of the starting line to see us all off. When he approached me I assumed he was interested in Bob, but it was my helmet mirror that seemed to the main object of attention. I wasn’t too surprised to get the comment that Boris would be proud of me on discovering that I commute to central London by bike, and what a good job he’s done for cyclists. Not being wholly convinced by Boris Johnson’s record on cycling my riposte was along the lines of how much I was looking forward to seeing all the things he’s said he’s going to do come to pass. Was I surprised to hear from the Mayor and his colleagues how difficult it could be to find the finance? Not entirely!
I had no need to worry about friendliness or meeting people as plenty of people there wanted to meet me and Bob. I think he was the only recumbent bike there – and as the email I’d received mentioned seeing all sorts of bikes, we certainly fitted the bill.
A little later than anticipated (a recurring theme through the day) the mayor cut the string across the starting line and we all set off on the first of the day’s two rides going on a loop that took us through Friern Barnet, up to Whetstone, back down past the Arts Depot in North Finchley and then along Ballards Lane to Victoria Park. The safety of all ensured not just by ride stewards but also a police escort – all bicycle officers doing this voluntarily in their own time. It may have been a fun family event, but it was still work for them and very much appreciated not least for the couple of times where they held up the traffic and let our entire convoy go through the red lights!
My worries before arriving at the event were about my ability to keep up. I soon realised that this was going to be the least of my problems. A group this size and with such a range of abilities goes pretty slowly – very slowly in fact – and Bob is at his most difficult to ride at low speed. Well I got plenty of practice in on this ride and overall I came away pretty pleased with how I did. Although compared to some I had it pretty easy. I’m thinking particularly of the 6 year old girl on her one-speed tricycle who pedalled all the way around with such determination.
The break at Victoria Park was a welcome chance to chat to a few other people and refuel for the second ride, designed to take us largely away from the roads and through Barnet’s greener spaces. It was a nice idea, some of the paths we took were very enjoyable to ride along and it is amazing to see how much it’s possible to get away from the traffic. The main drawback was that there were so many people trying to ride along at once where often it was only possible to go in single file. The end result is that we progressed about as fast as we had in the morning which wasn’t a huge amount above walking pace much of the time. There were also one or two divergences of opinion about which route to take, not helped by the fact that the Council had put up “no cycling” signs on what had been, up until the last 7 days or so, shared pedestrian / cycling paths.
Towards the end the stopping and starting did begin to get a bit frustrating, but once a decision was taken to complete the route on the local roads the ride progressed relatively swiftly to Swan Lane Open Space where there was live music and a conveniet cafe! Unfortunately I wasn’t able to hang around for long as we arrived about 40 minutes later than planned and I had to be elsewhere in the evening. However I didn’t leave before getting Roy from Barnet Cycles to take this picture of Bob and I at the end of the journey.