Friday 3 October 2008

Freewheel, central London

On one Sunday each year, some of London's finest roads are closed to traffic to enable thousands of cyclists to follow a 6km route between Buckingham Palace and the Tower of London without dodging cars, buses and lorries. Londoners of all shapes and sizes, some in fancy dress, turn up on everything from hunking mountain bikes to sleek racers to unicycles. But the absence of cars doesn't mean they can finally jump red lights legally - stewards, holding stop and go signs, patrol pedestrian crossings, enabling the thousands of spectators to criss-cross the route. Still, cruising around the grandeur of Trafalgar Square surrounded by scores of fellow cyclists is quite an experience. Would-be cyclists wishing to ride the route are supposed to register first, but it doesn't appear to be well enforced.

Hop up and down steel girders
For the 2008 edition, both St. James Park and the north side of the Mall were lined with tents and stalls, some giving away drinks and snacks or bright yellow vests and helium balloons. A small crowd gathered to watch the pros demonstrating how to hop up and down steel girders on their mountain bikes. In the park, a steel band played pop ballads while Britain's Olympic champions addressed their fans and the very fit competed for the best time in a sprint on an exercise bike. With the sun shining, Freewheel, a genuine celebration of cycling, has a laid-back party atmosphere and is one of Londoner's finer festivals. 8/10