RideLondon: What is it? Where can I watch it? Will travel be disrupted?

Thousands of cyclists are preparing to hit the streets of Surrey and London this weekend. Here’s the lowdown

Road closures, cycling, crowds, and police escorts… We thought the Tour de France was over.

It’s no secret that participation in cycling in the UK is in serious ascendency. After decades of being consigned to the weirdy-beardy/tree-hugging fraternity, cycling is back in a big way. Well two ways actually.

Firstly, more and more people are choosing to commute by bike. As public transport fares continue to rise and have become increasingly clogged, cycling is a cheap and fast way to get around.

Secondly, cycle racing is a growing obsession in Britain. As well as winning a plethora of medals in the last Olympic Games, Brits have recently won the biggest bike race of them all; the Tour de France in 2012 and 2013. This year, the Tour began with three days racing in the UK, beginning in Yorkshire and ending in London. As many as four million people in Britain lined the roads on the first two days’ racing alone. That’s more than 6.6% of our entire population, and doesn’t include TV viewing figures or a further estimated one million spectators in London.  

People just can’t get enough of it.

This is why an annual cycling fest now occurs in London and Surrey in August. RideLondon’s inaugural event was in 2013, and the event raised more than £7m for charity, making it the largest charity cycling event in the UK. The event is made up of several components.

What’s going on?

Friday

The event kicks off on Friday evening at 5.00pm with the women’s Grand Prix race. This is a circuit race around St. James’s Park, which finishes on the Mall. British champions including Laura Trott and Lizzie Armitstead will be taking on big names including Olympic champion Marianne Vos. The event will be shown live on the BBC.

Saturday

Freecycle

A 10-mile “Freecycle” route through central London will be closed to traffic on Saturday to allow a day of free fun family-oriented cycling. Up to 50,000 people are expected to turn up with their bikes and bells and jangle round St. James’s park, the Embankment, St. Pauls and up to Tower Bridge in the City.

Meanwhile in St. James’s Park, food, drink and cycling-related frivolity will be taking place in one of the weekend’s “festival zones”. Expect big screens, BMX displays and competitions.

Sunday

Two huge events are planned for Sunday. These are called the “Ride 100” and the “Surrey Classic”. The Ride 100 is a 100-mile romp through the Surrey Hills and returning to London that begins in the morning and is open to participation to paying amateur cyclists. Last year London Mayor Boris Johnson completed the course in eight hours and celebrated by eating a bacon butty.

On Sunday afternoon, the amateur ride is followed up by the professional road race, known as the Prudential RideLondon-Surrey Classic. “Classics” are one-day professional cycling events. This year, British stars Bradley Wiggins and Geraint Thomas will be among the 150 contenders vying to take the crown at the finish on The Mall.

The race starts at about 1pm at the Queen Elizabeth Olympic Park, and is expected to finish at about 6pm on The Mall (outside Queen Elizabeth’s house).

The race will be shown live on BBC1 from 14:00 and on British Eurosport from 14:30.

Gary MacGowan, technical manager for Transport for London, said to the Evening Standard: “Surrey’s roads after the 100 is through will then very quickly reopen to allow the Classic to come through on rolling road closures similar to way Tour of Britain is run. We realised you don’t need to have a [full] road closure.”

Here is the official info on Road closures from Transport for London:

Saturday 9 August

The impact on traffic is expected to be light and should only affect central London.

Road closures will be in place in Westminster and the City of London from 05:00 until around 18:00, including Southwark and Westminster bridges. All other central London river crossings will remain open.

Sunday 10 August

There will be a significant impact on traffic across a large part of the Capital including east, central and south west London as well as large parts of Surrey.

Road closures will be in place from 05:00 throughout east, central and south west London. From around 15:00 roads along the route in London will be opened in phases, once the event has passed and it is safe to do so, with all London roads expected to be opened by 20:30.

For detailed information and road closure maps visit the TfL website.

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