As thousands of cyclists, from families to pro racers, take to the streets of London on their bikes today as part of RideLondon’s festival of cycling, veteran DJ and TV presenter Tony Blackburn has claimed that the mass participation events should be replaced next year by an event “for car owners” – because “there are more of us and we do pay to go on the roads”.
The former BBC Radio 1 DJ and Top of the Pops host was replying to a tweet from London mayor Sadiq Khan, who described RideLondon as the “world’s biggest city bike festival”, after organisers confirmed that 50,000 riders would take part in today’s mass participation events, including the RideLondon-Essex sportive and the family-friendly FreeCycle, which took place over eight miles of traffic-free roads in central London earlier today.
That festival of cycling ends later this afternoon with the finish of the third and final stage of the RideLondon Classique on the Mall, with Lizzie Deignan – making her return to British roads following the birth of her second child – sitting in second place overall heading into today, behind American Chloe Dygert.
How about having an event next year for car owners in London instead of cyclists after all there are more of us and we do pay to go on the roads, https://t.co/K7sNmu7ciX
— Tony Blackburn (@tonyblackburn) May 28, 2023
However, cycling’s one-day takeover of central London has appeared to irk 80-year-old Blackburn, who tweeted this morning: “How about having an event next year for car owners in London instead of cyclists? After all there are more of us and we do pay to go on the roads.”
Perhaps unsurprisingly, the DJ’s tweet has been widely criticised online, with one cyclist replying that “every day is an event for car owners, Tony”.
Others questioned Blackburn’s claim that motorists pay to use the roads – an allusion to Vehicle Excise Duty or, as it’s often mistakenly referred to as, ‘road tax’ – with Twitter user Phil asking Blackburn to “direct me to where you pay, and what you pay”.
“Cyclists very often are car owners. So are many marathon runners at a marathon ‘event’,” wrote CyclingInASkirt. “How much more do you pay exactly to use the road than either of these? You’re aware general taxation pays for roads – which we all pay – aren’t you?”
Blackburn’s tweet comes less than two months after another post in which he criticised what he views as Britain’s “ridiculous obsession with 20mph speed limits everywhere”.
He continued: “Who is it that decides that we motorists now are overtaken by cyclists?”
Of course, the winner of the 2002 edition of I’m a Celebrity, Get Me Out of Here isn’t the first to take aim at RideLondon’s annual use of the roads.
Back in January, a local council in Essex claimed that the majority of locals “don’t particularly want” the sportive to return to the town this year as residents “can’t get out of their own road” during the popular mass ride event, which moved to the county for 2022 following seven editions in Surrey.
Members of Ongar Town Council also argued that the apparent benefits of hosting the sportive – particularly for local businesses – were unfounded, and that the money made available to charities thanks to the event could be exceeded if all households in the area donated a “pound or two”.
— Ford RideLondon (@RideLondon) May 28, 2023
Despite the concerns of DJs and some local authorities, this year’s RideLondon – which marks the tenth anniversary of the event – has continued to prove a success, attracting a record 25,000 participants for the 30, 60, and 100 mile sportive rides, and the same number for the closed roads family ride through London.
The glorious sunshine and sight of thousands of cyclists riding through the centre of London prompted a much more upbeat and enthusiastic tweet from Olympic champion and Active Travel England chief Chris Boardman:
— Chris Boardman (@Chris_Boardman) May 28, 2023
And, naturally, one sarcastic reply aimed at a certain Mr Blackburn:
@tonyblackburn bloody cyclists 😡
— Ken Storr (@kennethstorr) May 28, 2023
Ryan joined road.cc as a news writer in December 2021. He has written about cycling and some ball-centric sports for various websites, newspapers, magazines and radio. Before returning to writing about cycling full-time, he completed a PhD in History and published a book and numerous academic articles on religion and politics in Victorian Britain and Ireland (though he remained committed to boring his university colleagues and students with endless cycling trivia). He can be found riding his bike very slowly through the Dromara Hills of Co. Down.