I took part in my first ever mass demonstration yesterday, and me in my late 40’s. Just goes to show what a lazy easy-going person I am I guess.
I joined 500 of my fellow London bikers in a slow ride to Westminster City Council to protest at their “experimental” parking charges for motorcyclists.
To explain (also see Central Park):
London is made up of 32 boroughs, with Westminster being the best-known. If you’re at Big Ben, Buckingham Palace, Trafalgar Square, Leicester Square, Soho and some of TheatreLand you’re in Westminster. All of the boroughs are friendly to motorcycles more or less: as you saw in Central Park they have varying policies regarding motorcycles’ use of regular car parking facilities, but they all provide special solo motorcycle bays and these are always free. The idea is to encourage people to either use public transport or two wheels to come into London and leave their cars at home, to reduce congestion and pollution. Cars have to pay a daily Congestion Charge to come into Central London and parking is expensive, making motorcycles a more attractive prospect for the commuter.
BUT, Westminster City Council decided to start experimentally charging motorcyclists for parking in solo motorcycle bays last autumn — a fact that I was unaware of when I received a ticket last month. The experiment phase is nearly up and they are about to decide whether to scrap it or make it permanent. Well, we bikers are up in arms about this because if Westminster succeeds then the other boroughs will doubtless follow, and their Green image will be stained by the lust to generate more revenue.
All of which waffle leads me to my point: I got wind of a protest being organised earlier this week so decided to show up and add my support. We gathered in the underground car park on Park Lane and rode up the ramp to begin our slow ride to Victoria St. It was a great feeling, being one of 500 bikers in a great mass, all revving our engines and honking our horns. All along the 20 minute ride people were staring and waving, taking photos with their phones, and many car drivers honked in solidarity (at least I think it was solidarity).
More horn-bibbing ensued: h o n k , h o n k , honkhonkhonk , honkhonkhonkhonk, HONKHONK!
Towards the end of the ride my horn started to sound a bit sick, its usual assertive blast replaced by a more weedy, bronchular rasp. I thought no more of it at the time, caught up in the excitement. We all pulled up outside the council offices and completely blocked Victoria St for about 30 minutes while the Ringleaders went in to make our case in the lobby and to be interviewed by local TV news crews.
By the time the police arrived and politely asked us to disperse my horn had gone to meet its honky maker, and I had to make the solitary ride home in relative quiet.
Next morning and time to research a replacement. I was quoted £45 + 15%VAT for a genuine Honda horn, which I thought was a bit much. I made some more enquiries and discovered that my bike takes any regular 12-Volt two terminal horn, so I went along to my nearest Halfords and purchased a low-tone horn for £9.99, and fitted it in the car park.
Bike back to normal and with an even deeper, more self-assured voice: PARP!