Saturday, 19 June 2010

Saturday 19th June 10, CTC Rally AND 5th York World Naked Bike Ride

Up early as I had a busy day ahead... a full day of entertaining at the CTC Rally (the 'York Cycle Show') and then the Fifth York World Naked Bike Ride at 5pm.

So I left in good time, popping in to see Richard at Country Fresh as I haven't said hello to him for a few days, and then along Fulford Road to Hospital Fields Road and down to the Millennium Bridge.

I was pleased to find that the lovely Racecourse people had left Ebor Way open; the covered pathway with nice smooth concrete, which is ideal for teaching/learning unicycling. But before I got started, I visited the volunteer repair stall, which wasn't for repairing volunteers, but for voluntarily repairing bikes and the like.... so I gave them my unicycle which had a slow puncture, and they repaired it! For free! very kind of them... Then I visited the control tent and said hello, letting them know where I was planning to work. So, by 10.20, I was set up in Ebor Way and was soon busy with lots of children, a few teenagers and the occasional adult.

I worked solidly, without a break, until about 2.30 when, for some reason, the Racecourse management decided to shut the gates at the North end of Ebor Way, so that the flow of pedestrian and cycle traffic stopped, reducing the number of people using my services. But, at this time a young female unicyclist, R, whom I've met on several occasions, turned up and had several spins around on one of my unicycles, which was encouraging for other children her age and size (she's now 12) who were trying to learn by using the 3 sets of '4 wheel unicycles' and the one '2 wheel unicycle' thing (pedal go and fun wheels). However, this activity dried up, leaving me just with R, so I decided to decamp for the last hour onto the main field. But it was REALLY cold and much more windy here, and there were hardly any people wanting to try out stuff, so R and I just unicycled around a bit. The lumpy bumpy field wasn't as easy to unicycle around on, and at one stage I fell off and took the scab off my knee, which started to bleed again.... what a nuisance!

However, that last hour came to an end and at 4pm I was able to say bye to my little friend and cycle off into town to join the World Naked Bike Ride participants. I had brought with me a mask, requested by Melanie, 10 bamboos, for the flags, gaffer tape, for fixing bamboos, the megaphone, and my flagpole and flag. I got some of it set up and met up with Janie (ex Spencer Tunick, ex Manchester WNBR) and her son T, who has not ridden a bike very much, and curiously, was dressed as a mobile phone! Then I had to do some announcing, including Councillor Andrew Waller's message to the group, following his being contacted by a few members of the public unhappy with what we had planned to do. Some people are unhappy with public nudity, others about using Memorial Gardens as a starting point, citing 'disrespect'. So, to try to counter this view, I announced that the ride was dedicated to those who had been killed whilst cycling, especially those serving their country, the cyclist regiments and battalions.

Then Jesse Schust did a bit of an announcement; he's been looking after the UK WNBR for a few years and he's standing down, and I believe it is Tony who is going to keep those wheels turning. Then we moved to the start of the ride, which is a car park quite close to the River Ouse, behind a block of flats or apartments. Councillor Dave Taylor was being Dick Turpin for a while, and he launched the ride.

We'd discussed how the ride would be managed and I was asked to do the 'rear guard' and keep at the back of all the riders, so I kept this position all the way. It was a very slow ride, at walking pace for quite a bit of the way.... just as well for one participant who walked and jogged the whole way round with a skateboard under his arm, completely naked apart from shoes!

Our route went over the River Ouse, to the Minster, down Petergate to Church St and Parliament St, then wriggled round to Coppergate and Clifford St, round the oval road which goes past the Castle Museum, over to Tower Gardens, down river to Blue Bridge and onto Millennium Bridge. The other side of this we continued down river as far as the snicket which leads fairly steeply up to Terrys on Bishopthorpe Road. From here we went towards Bishopthorpe and crossed onto the start of the Route 66 cycle path to Selby, to the place where to occasionally used Racecourse Road crosses the cycle path, and where Ruby Milnes was tragically killed in 2008, when a lorry delivering portaloos to the Racecourse collided with her.

So this was the half way point, and we'd planned to have a 15 minute rest here, but it was REALLY cold and windy, so we had a brief stop of about 5 minutes. I did an announcement about the serious message of the ride; our vulnerability as cyclists, and I mentioned Ruby. We had a one minute's silence. After which people were keen to keep going!

I counted the participants here, and there were 97, and two had left the ride at the Millennium Bridge, so the number as far as I'm concerned was 100 on this ride. My CTC Rally friend R turned up here and so I said goodbye to her again. Our route back was along Albermarle Road, The Mount, Blossom St, Micklegate, Coney St and into Museum Gardens where people dismounted to get to the area where we got back into ordinary mode. There was a bit of discussion about the police presence. They had been understaffed due to other things going on, so we had mainly 'PCSOs', and their role was supposed to be 'observers'. However, when a couple of our stewards 'corked' a junction (stopping traffic to allow the riders to go through all in one block, for safety reasons) the PCSOs intervened and tried to prevent our people doing this. But later in the ride, the police behaved more sensibly and on one occasion corked a junction themselves, on The Mount, and then on Mickelgate, told us to stay as a block and ignore the lights which were changing, and if we'd obeyed them we would have been split as a group. We did get split a couple of times and this did not enhance safety. Ideally we need to be treated as a procession or convoy and kept as a group, and my guess is that next year, we'll try to sort this out beforehand.

So, it was a successful event with no accidents or incidents to speak of, no aggression from motorists and I heard no negative comments from members of the public. I was really impressed by Janie and especially her son who are both pretty novice cyclsts and for them, it was a tough ride.

I cycled back with Michael Nugent, our volunteer CRU... cycling response unit, a self employed ambulance bike rider from Essex who is a keen naturist, and I'd offered to give him somewhere to kip for the night. He'd parked outside our house and cycled in with Jesse, whom he'd given a lift to, and he had a wander down the garden, I picked some spinach and Gill added this to some noodles and other veg which we both enjoyed. After this he said hello to the children and then we had an hour in the Beeswing down the road, good chats.

A few more chats and laughs when we got back, and jolly conversations with Gill, but then he was tired and as he had to get up and go at some ridiculous hour, he went to sleep on the futon in the front room.

I wrote my blog. Which I hope gives you a flavour of an unforgettable day. But only if you were out in it would you know how cold it was!

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