Connectin Croydon

By - Monday 15th July, 2013

Bicycle aficionado Wes Baker reports on Croydon’s recent celebration of cycling and connection

As an avid cyclist I set aside my day to attend the weekend bicycle event in Exchange Square. ‘Connectin Croydon’ was hosted as a way to celebrate the new east-to-west cycle route linking Wandle Park and Park Hill via the town centre’s Exchange Square and Surrey Street market.

Taking a look around for something to test out my update to instagram video, I was approached by Mr Phoebus dressed quite sharply in a suit for a trial of a penny farthing.  Usually boasting of my confidence at cycling in London traffic I mounted the saddle with an ounce of trepidation. Placing a fox-hunting-like hat upon my head and adjusting the straps I was made aware my trademark frohican had not been ruined, which put me at ease a little. Under strict instruction not to touch the brakes, to sit up straight, and go slow, I asked if I should be worried that my thighs were rubbing against the handlebars. With a helping hand I set off expecting to fall right over from the outset. Pedalling across the square then down to Q-park now without help and back up and around towards the Exchange House entrance I headed back to the stand by the faux restaurant unit hoardings.

Looking through the leaflet and what was on display it was clear the iconic penny farthing had been adapted for modern tastes with smaller bikes for kids, full size penny farthings for events such as weddings, and the option to purchase for private use. I will admit the experience wasn’t entirely enjoyable with each stroke of the pedals making it feel as if you’d wobble out of control. I can only say how weird it feels to ride a bicycle but constantly having to be reminding yourself to keep pedalling. The most enjoyable thing was not only looking at a piece of history but operating and understanding a design from the past first hand.

On the way down to the square I spotted a few cargo bikes. Making a b-line for ‘carry me bikes’ I spoke to the two ladies manning the stand. After the penny farthings, I asked how easy they are to get accustomed to riding. Sadly due to the Saturday bustle of the market I couldn’t take one for a test. Hailing from Hackney, Carry Me Bikes is a social enterprise dedicated to practical cycling as well as cargo bikes.

Unfortunately I missed the bicycle ballet performers who were resting in Matthews Yard as I read about the old town master plan. I never saw this either, but did see Pedal A Smoothie and Rollapalloozza who offered the chance to see how fast you could race on a bicycle. Having ridden from Thornton Heath I chose to just watch and save my energy for the journey home. For me, the star of the event had to be the cycling pianist. A piano similar to the ones seen in cowboy films mounted on a frame with wheels the cyclist dressed not too dissimilar to Daniel Day-Lewis in Gangs of New York pedalled, sang, steered, and played the piano. I’d only ever seen such talent, skill, and quirkiness before on the internet or other parts of the city.

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I hope that, with more events like this, the borough wakes up more to the fun of cycling and really embraces bicycle as the rest of the city has. I’m sure that if more of these events are hosted and they are promoted well more people will come. I was told on the day that our town is effectively ten years behind the current bicycle culture that seems to just stop on our borders in Lambeth.  The suggestion is that I lobby our local politicians on the importance and benefits that are to be gained from a community that chooses cycles. I know of a few people who share the same beliefs as me and would encourage them as well as the youth of Croydon to join me in the task of becoming the premier outer cycling borough of London.



Street photographer, 1st of the Frohicans and Croydon's No.1 fan according to my parents. I graduated in Transport Design at Coventry University summer 2012 and made my way back to the town I love to continue working on my Croydon facebook page. I eventually met some of the other local creatives with the same enthusiasm and soon knew it was my mission to engage with and hopefully help to get the word out about the creative potential and future of Croydon.

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