At 8.45am on Sunday morning I found myself sprinting down an empty high street leading to Kingston bridge in South West London.
My momentary outburst of speed was in an attempt to reach a particular spot on the bridge by 10 to 9 when, according to a somewhat unreliable tracker app, my dad would be riding past as part of the Prudential RideLondon. I missed him, but ended up waving enthusiastically at a number of random cyclists dressed in the same stand out pink polka dot jerseys of those riding for Breast Cancer Now.
However, despite my initial apathy I’m pleased I went, sprinted and waved because the Prudential Ride showcased the best of London.
London and the U.K as a whole has had some pretty bad PR in recent weeks. Since Britain voted on June 23 to leave the EU the image the country has projected is one of division, arrogance and downright nastiness. From the weeks of Machiavellian political drama to the well publicised rise in racially motivated hate crime, the veil of decency and tolerance for which the British have been known has been thrown off.
Yet this is the very time when we need to prove ourselves as outward looking and welcoming.
But standing at the side of the road on a sunny Sunday you forgot about that. What you thought about was the thousands who had voluntarily woken up early to get to a starting point in east London to ride 45 or 100 miles to raise money for charity. All 27,000 of them.
The tens of thousands of friends, families and well wishers who stood out across London to cheer them on and the charity representatives who had given up their weekend to support their riders. And the fact that this global capital city of 8.6 million was effectively brought to a standstill so all this was possible and, apart from a few naysayers (including Katie Hopkins) on Twitter, no one seemed to mind.
Added to that, the day before families and hobbyists could cycle the route for free at their own pace. On Saturday anyone with a bike had a chance to ride London when the streets were empty and the sun was shining.
That’s the London we should be proud of. That’s the U.K. We should be promoting to the world. This morning a woman was stabbed to death in Russell Square and yesterday the metropolitan police unveiled their new armed and armoured force in response to the wave of attacks across Europe. The first is a tragedy and the second is necessity but neither represent the London I know.
Four years on from the Olympics the capital feels very different, but that atmosphere and pride can be found again – at 8.50am on a Sunday at the side of the road waving at amateurs riding bikes for charity.