A pedal down memory lane

Reading Roger’s post on his new Trek bike reminded me that I have an old neglected Trek 900 in the shed. It’s not that I don’t want to ride it, it is just hard to fit rides in along with work, family, running and everything else. It is hard to believe that I used to clock 100+ miles a week as a cycle courier way back in the early eighties. In weather like we’re having, I often think back to the freedom and the companionship that that the job offered – the quick snatches of conversation in Soho Square between jobs, the chocolate pudding and custard in the Court Cafe, hanging out of the office window watching the world – and the film industry girls* – go by, changing the gas bottles for the prostitute downstairs and refusing the freebie offered in return. When I started, there were only a handful of cycle courier outfits in London and it was still something of a novelty. Nowadays, it is a full-blown industry with associations, federations, international gatherings and competitions.

Sadly, one of the things that hasn’t changed a great deal is the lack of a decent integrated transport policy for London, despite the best efforts of the likes of the London Cycling Campaign and the London Bicycle Messenger Association. The fact that major cities around the world seem incapable of developing coordinated transport schemes means that the more vulnerable users like pedestrians and cyclists are perpetually at risk from other road users. In all my 20 years of cycling in London, quick wits, defensive riding and treating all others as homicidal maniacs means that I have thankfully only had a handful of bad spills requiring hospital treatment. Some, however, are not so lucky as the list of names at Messenger Memeorial shows. Unknowingly until today, I happened upon the scene of Sebastian Lukomski’s accident minutes after it occured and was in the area when London cyclists staged a Critical Mass protest later and distinctly recall thinking how easily that could have been me.

On a lighter note, all this is quite pertinent because Bike Week 2004 starts tomorrow in the UK – so join me in digging out the bike, pumping up the tyres and heading off to a local event near you – like these run by Tower Hamlets Wheelers.

* One of whom later became SWMBO.

Leave a Reply