London cafes take the heat out of cycling
Bike cafes are popping up all over London, providing refreshment, repairs and places to meet fellow members of a burgeoning two-wheeled community.
Thu, Jul 22, 2010 at 03:54 AM
BIKE CAFE: Kulveer Ranger, London's transport adviser, poses in the Look Mum No Hands Cafe to mark the launch of London's cycling revolution document, which sets out a packed program of cycling investment. (Photo: ZUMA Press)
It might be the inspiration of the Tour de France, the traffic or the unexpectedly hot weather, but London has gone cycle crazy this summer — and biking cafes are now the coolest spots in town.
Frequented by lycra-clad racers and trendy fashionistas alike, bike-friendly bars are popping up all over the British capital, providing refreshment, repairs and places to meet fellow members of a burgeoning two-wheeled community.
"People come here to sit around, have some coffees, hang out with friends — and while they are doing that we fix their bikes," said Nicole Hamilton, a mechanic at the popular "Look Mum No Hands" cafe-bar in east London.
The 27-year-old works in a small room off the main cafe, which is adorned with red, white and blue bunting in honour of the Tour de France.
This is one of the few public places showing the gruelling cycling competition live on television in London, and many in the packed crowd have come here to watch it on the big screen.
"I've come here today to see this stage of the Tour de France because we did it a couple of weeks ago. I've only just found out about this bar, and it seems brilliant," said William Ragby, 25, watching the race with a group of friends.
Around him the room is adorned with vintage bicycles, wheels hanging from the ceiling and in honor of the Tour, the yellow jerseys awarded to the race leaders and photos of top racers.
The race has caused a huge surge in business for the cafe and last weekend "it was absolutely packed" with people watching the screen, said cafe co-owner Lewin Chalkley. "People were standing, shouting at the screen."
Even without the Tour, cycle fever is on show all around London this summer, a testament as much to the unexpectedly good weather as to a long-running effort by the city to get people out of their cars and onto a bike.
The number of cycle journeys has doubled since 2000 and the mayor's office wants it to double again by 2025, a target that will be helped by the introduction of a London-wide bike rental scheme later this month.
Similar projects are already up and running in Shanghai, Paris and Washington, D.C., and Mayor Boris Johnson — himself a keen cyclist, along with Prime Minister David Cameron — said he expected the scheme to convert "legions of people" to travelling by bike in the British capital.
About 6,000 bikes will be available at 400 locations across central London, while local authorities are also offering free classes for beginners and new cycle "superhighways" to give cyclists a safer route in from the suburbs.
And last Sunday, 13,000 people took to their bikes to enjoy riding on a car-free route around Ealing, west London, when roads were closed to traffic for five and a half hours.
But if that all sounds a little tiring, London's cyclists are not short of a place to take their wheels and grab a drink.
"Look Mum No Hands" — the classic refrain of a child learning to ride a bike — has fast become one of the top destinations for London's cyclists since it opened earlier this year, but it is by no means alone.
One of the most established bike cafes is Lock 7, which was set up in August 2008 by the banks of Regents Canal in east London and offers coffee, cake, repairs as well as a shop selling accessories and second-hand bikes.
Meanwhile cycle clothing and accessories brand Rapha has set up a temporary gallery, shop and cafe in the city for three months this summer after the success of a similar venture across the Atlantic in New York City.
Copyright 2010 AFP Global Edition