In the last month, I’ve seen more people cycling in Southwark than ever before, writes Eleanor Margolies…
With far fewer cars and trucks on the road, it feels safe for older, younger, slower and wobblier cyclists. The people cycling are more diverse than usual. And families with young children are riding together – not just around parks, but on the streets.
What stopped these people cycling before?
Streets crammed with metal boxes, bumper to bumper. Justified fear of drivers who speed and drivers with eyes only for their phones. But right now, in cities across the world, space is being made for people to walk and cycle at a safe distance from each other.
In Hammersmith and Fulham, extra walking space has been created on shopping streets, using traffic cones. There have been some positive words from Southwark councillors; now the council must act quickly to give everyone room to move about safely.
It’s not just about exercise: key workers are commuting by bike and volunteers are cycling to deliver food and medicine. This week, I picked up some 3D printed visors from a school and delivered them to an adult social care team, then picked up fabric for a group sewing scrubs for the NHS. It probably looked as if I was just enjoying a ride in the spring sunshine – and I was doing that too!
Cycle shops are still open if you need a new inner tube, a service or to buy a bike. Southwark residents can hire bikes (for both adults and kids) at a low monthly rate from www.peddlemywheels.com/try-before-you-bike (At the moment they are giving priority to NHS staff but keep an eye on the website.)
The Bike Project, based in Herne Hill, is a brilliant organisation that provides refugees with bikes. You can donate cycles you no longer use, buy a refurbished bike for yourself from the shop or book a virtual Dr Bike session – a one-to-one video call with a mechanic. This service is free to NHS workers. thebikeproject.co.uk
The London Cycle Campaign provides free tips for returning cyclists and free membership for NHS staff, including third-party insurance lcc.org.uk
And the local branch of the LCC, Southwark Cyclists, offers route guides for Healthy Rides, including a ‘Three Parks ride’ linking Burgess Park, Peckham Rye and Southwark Park. southwarkcyclists.org.uk/rideroutes