Years ago – in 1981 – when I was a mere fourteen years of age, I started doing the London to Brighton Bike Ride. Living in Brighton, we’d get up very early, catch one of the special trains to Clapham Junction, and proudly start the ride. Depending on the mood of our little group of friends, we’d either complete the thing in a few hours, or take our time, make loads of stops for Women’s Institute doughnuts and so on, and get into Brighton sometime in the afternoon. We’d be able to ride home to freshen up, then go out for a quick meal in the evening. It’s an annual event that holds a fond place in my memory over many consecutive years.
At some point in the late 80’s I stopped doing the ride. I had seen it get more over-crowded and dangerous, with so many people doing the ride unofficially that fast downhill sections like Slugwash Lane had become scenes of many inevitable accidents – one year I remember seeing the road awash with blood – and narrow uphill sections were turning the event into the London to Brighton Bike Shuffle.
I did the ride with my wife & friends a couple of years during the late 90s & early 2000s, but things weren’t much better. So it was goodbye L2B from me.
Yesterday I experienced once again the utter farce of what the London to Brighton Bike Ride does to Brighton. Road closures would be OK. Diversions fine. But when tens of thousands of extra cars (many of them 4×4 domestic trucks) are coming into Brighton for the sole reason that they’re picking up one or more cyclists, something is badly wrong. Traffic down a 15-mile stretch of the A23 came to a virtual standstill. Doesn’t the British Heart Foundation care about it? Surely the pollution alone should tell them that something has to change – it certainly can’t be good for the heart, and I wonder what the British Lung Foundation would say on the matter. And making it the day of countless other summer events, village fetes, and indeed Father’s Day – that’s just asking for trouble.
I daresay nothing will change next year. It’s a stupid, overhyped event which has become unmanageable. Sure it had noble roots and a great cause behind it, but nowadays it’s just a menace. At the very least it needs a new route, a major rethink, better public transport coordination, and a ban on pickups by car. The London to Brighton Bike Ride has gone bad.