And can you, can you imagine fifty people a day, I said fifty people a day walking in singin a bar of Alice’s Restaurant and walking out. And friends, they may think it’s a movement. (Arlo Guthrie – Alice’s Restaurant)
But first, the humiliation of turning up to the inaugural meeting of the Cycling Embassy of Great Britain on foot. I had planned to cycle, I had been given a lovely route to follow taking in the best of London’s bike infrastructure, I had my Boris Bike key, I had my backup credit card and I had my backup to the backup debit card and I had found a whole rack full of functioning Boris bikes – what could possibly go wrong?
Fifteen frozen-fingered minutes later I had to admit defeat. Not only had I not managed to activate my key, but both of my cards had been disdainfully rejected and my phone had run out of credit so I couldn’t even ring the number and get it sorted out. I was forced to make it to Look Mum No Hands on foot. But make it I did, where I was momentarily stymied by the fact that I had no idea what the people I was meeting actually looked like. Normally, meeting a bunch of cyclists in a cafe – even ones you don’t know – is pretty easy: look for the guys (and they will be guys) who look like obvious cyclists (you know, lycra, hi-vis, helmet hair, permanently startled expression from a close encounter with a taxi on a roundabout) But LMNH is a cycling cafe, and so everyone in it looked like a cyclist. Except, that is, the guy in the corner in a suit, who turned out to be Jim from the Lo Fidelity Cycling Club. That’s the joy of a proper Dutch bike, and that’s the joy of the CEoGB – we’re trying to create something where cyclists look like ordinary people and we had all turned up in character. There were people in suits, people in jeans, people in skirts, even a couple of people in bright yellow because we’re broad minded like that, and besides the revolution hasn’t actually arrived yet and sometimes a little bit of hi vis is what you need on the streets of London.
I’ll leave it to others to tell you about the actual meeting (I was talking too much to listen as usual). Afterwards, a brave man lent me his credit card so I could rent a Boris Bike and join the inaugural infrastructure safari. We weren’t quite fifty people but we made quite a throng as we cycled slowly through the dusk of a London Saturday afternoon on our upright bikes and our rented steeds and – as a passer-by watching our progress was heard to say – ‘I think it’s got to be some kind of a demonstration’
We hadn’t meant it to be, but perhaps after all they had a point.