Hidden histories by bike

Mon, 11/08/2014

Following this year’s RideLondon – the annual festival of cycling which saw more than 80,000 cyclists take to the streets of the capital over the weekend - Westminster Council has released a list of the top five bike tours in the city which take in some of London’s quirkiest landmarks and most iconic sights.    

The themed routes cater to a variety of different tastes, allowing everyone from avid Beatles fans to art historians and wildlife enthusiasts to indulge their passions from the saddle. 

The five bike tours are:

  • Beatles by Bike
  • A Musical History
  • Westminster Wildlife
  • Sculpture and Street Art
  • Discoveries and Inventions

The routes are structured around the blue and green plaques dotted around the city in honour of noteworthy individuals. English Heritage’s Blue Plaques scheme is the oldest of its kind, while Westminster Council’s Green Plaques highlight particular buildings in Westminster associated with people of renown who have made lasting contributions to society. 

The Beatles by Bike tour starts at the gallery where John Lennon met Yoko Ono, taking in the venue of the Beatles’ last performance and the house where Yesterday and I Wanna Hold Your Hand were penned and ending at Abbey Road studios. 

Music lovers can also cycle along the Musical History route, where they will pass Jimi Hendrix’s flat, the house where Handel lived, the street pictured on the cover of David Bowie’s album The Rise and Fall of Ziggy Stardust and the Spiders from Mars and the site of the first ever Rolling Stones gig. 

The wildlife tour gives cyclists a chance to see some of Westminster’s most famous animals – both real and man-made. Riders will cycle past the four spectacular lions guarding Nelson’s Column in Trafalgar Square, the pelicans strolling through St James’ Park, the moving Animals at War memorial and finishing with a visit to the Penguin Beach at London Zoo. 

Westminster is home to some of the world’s most famous and well-loved public art, ranging from Trafalgar Square’s Fourth Plinth to the statue of Anteros – commonly known as Eros – in Piccadilly Circus, with everything from Barbara Hepworth to Banksy in between. The Sculpture and Street Art tour will take cyclists past these and many more of Westminster’s best works of art.

Historians of a different kind will find much to pique their interest on the Discoveries and Inventions route, which takes cyclists on a tour of Westminster firsts. These include the first public building in the world to be lit entirely by electricity, the venue of the first Sex Pistols gig, the only street in Britain where you are supposed to ride or drive on the right and, appropriately, the place where Denis Johnson made Britain’s first bike.

Denis Johnson, Westminster’s first cycling enthusiast, also set up the country’s oldest cycling school in 1818 – the Hobby Horse riding school on the Strand.

The tradition he started has continued, and the council now partners with Cycle Confident, which offers cycling tips to adults and in schools. Figures released earlier this year revealed that the number of adults taking advantage of the resource has more than tripled over the past five years, while the number of children has increased by over 80 percent. 

Cllr Heather Acton, Westminster City Council’s cycling champion, said: “We have been treated to a feast of cycling this weekend which will have inspired thousands to take to the saddle. After an unprecedented summer of cycling in the capital there is no better time to rediscover the city by bike. These tours are a fantastic way to visit some of Westminster's best known landmarks and also discover some of its best kept secrets.” 

For cyclists wanting to go it alone or arrange their own trips, Westminster’s top five bike rides are available to download.

Alternatively, Cycle Confident organises family-friendly group trips with expert guides with in-depth knowledge of the routes. Book a tour with Cycle Confident

Last updated: 10 August 2016
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