As the London Freewheel drew to a close on Sunday, Bikeradar.com caught up with organiser Jenny Jones to find out how the day had gone.
Jenny, a Green Party London assembly member and transport adviser to Ken Livingstone, told us that the event – which cost Transport for London £1.5million, with another £600,000 from sponsors Hovis – will come back next year and be even bigger. Here’s our exclusive interview with her.
BikeRadar: The event reached capacity today. You must be delighted.
Jenny Jones: I have no idea at the moment how many people came but obviously it’s been very popular. Of course it means that next year we can close more roads.For me that’s really the way forward. This is an annual event now and we will be closing roads and we will be increasing the numbers. We had to stop the registration at 38,000 and I’m sure there’s more than 38,000 here. And people are having such fun. I also wasn’t sure who would actually come. I thought the lycra brigade wouldn’t come and families probably wouldn’t come and in fact every body came. And I think people are now going to be asking when next year’s Freewheel will happen. It’s just going to be a date in the diary.
BR: Do you think this is the kind of event that will get more people in London commuting by bike?
JJ: There is this thing about feeling safe. Women, particularly, want to feel safe on the roads and so today’s fantastic, well, for everybody.
But people quite often don’t realise how close it is between places in London and how easy it is to cycle, so I hope today will translate into two things. It’s going to translate into more cyclists tomorrow and the next day, and forever after, but I also hope that it will reassure everybody, including motorists and bus drivers, that it is nicer if you have more cyclists on the roads.
BR: How’s the reaction from the non-cycling community been to the shutting down of central London for the day?
JJ: There has been negative feedback, but my answer is, if you’ve got 40,000 people who want the roads closed and who are prepared to turn up and use those roads and enjoy them, then surely that outweighs the few people who might want to bring their cars into town on that day? Every day is the day of the car – this is one day a year when it’s the day of the bike.
BR: We spoke to a rental company called OyBike at the Freewheel Festival today, which has rental points in Hammersmith and Fulham. Is that the kind of scheme you’re going to be looking at for the whole of London soon?
JJ:That’s exactly the sort of thing, because this Velib scheme in Paris is that sort of thing. OyBike seems to be doing very well, but obviously if we could somehow link up with OyBike and have it London wide then it would have a huge impact.
Quite often there would be tourists or business people in central London who’d want to do short hops with their bikes, but I reckon if you got these rental bikes out into the suburbs, if you got them out into the town centres, like Sutton and like Peckham, you would actually find people using the bikes for short distances. It’s a great idea.
BR: London has a target to reduce pollution by 60 per cent by 2025, and there’s been a report recently saying that the only way to do this is to ban cars from the centre. What are your plans for hitting the target?
JJ: Well of course, removing every car from London is, at the moment, impossible. There are people who do need their cars and I’m quite happy to accept that. But I would say it’s a tiny minority who need their cars. Really it is time for people to accept that using your car for every day trips is actually very last century, and we’ve got to think about the future. We’ve got to get more people cycling, fewer people in their cars, and on public transport but we’ve also got to limit aviation.
BR: Finally, did you do the Freewheel circuit?
JJ: Of course – twice!
The Freewheel cost Transport for London £1.5million, with another £600,000 from sponsors Hovis.