Sunday, November 01, 2015

Halloween Bikelife Rideout in South London

Last night someone mentioned on twitter that they'd just seen hundreds of motorbikes tearing down New Cross Road. A couple of minutes later I heard a wall of noise heading up my road, and looking out of the window there they were - every kind of motorbike, scooter, moped and quad bike, taking over both sides of the road, lots of wheelies, lots of people riding without helmets...

On twitter there were sightings of them all over the place... Streatham Common, Brixton Hill, Nunhead, Brockley, Ladywell, Blackheath, Charlton, the Old Kent Road. Reports too of fireworks being let off by bikers. It looks like they may have met up at Hilly Fields at around  7pm

So what was going on?

The first thing to say is that it didn't come out of nowhere. Some of you may remember that exactly the same thing happened this weekend last year, when hundreds of bikers met up in Sydenham on Halloween weekend and rode all round South London.  The Halloween rideout is a coming together of lots of people involved in the bikelife scene, a growing sub-culture of young guys (and it is mainly but not exclusively guys) doing stunts and generally getting their high speed two-wheeled kicks. To get a sense of this check out Bikelife TV. Here's footage of the 2014 London Halloween rideout:



Bikelife is an international scene starting out in the US, and Halloween rideouts are also held elsewhere - check out this footage of the New York City Halloween Rideout 2011 for instance, a very similar event to last night's in South London. A quick search on youtube shows that there were Halloween rideouts last night in places as far apart as Tijuana (Mexico) and Tokyo.

In some ways this is just the latest incarnation of US/UK youth fascination with bikes and reckless behaviour, something that goes back through biker gangs, 1960s mods on scooters, 1950s 'ton up' rockers and Marlon Brando's Black Rebels Motorcycle Club in 'The Wild One'. As a recent Vice article noted, some of the new scene even gravitate sometimes to the mecca of British biker culture, the Ace Cafe on the north circular.

The second thing to say is it looks like a lot of fun and excitement for those taking part. Obviously its pretty thrilling taking over the streets for a night, something which cyclists also feel through their Critical Mass rides and which I even sometimes feel as a runner when a race closes down a road and hundreds of us get to run for once in the middle of the street. All the roads everywhere are dominated by cars, vans and lorries every day of the year, so part of me thinks why shouldn't some of the rest of road users have their moment? Maybe like London Marathon for runners or Ride London for cyclists, the streets of London should be closed once a year for bikers.

The third thing to say though is that it is a dangerous  pursuit. For those participating, it's their choice if they want to risk their own injury or worse, and plainly the danger is part of the thrill. But on last night's ride there was also some people who rode up on pavements, something that must have been very frightening for anyone walking along and could easily have caused a serious accident. So I guess liberal old me says have your fun but don't put other people at risk. Or as the commentator on this film from Streatham last night puts it, don't be a 'f...ing idiot'.









It looks like the meeting point at 7 pm might have been at Hilly Fields:




37 comments:

Nick Barron said...

"So I guess liberal old me says have your fun but don't put other people at risk."

The problem is that these two things are directly contradictory. It's impossible for hundreds of people to drive across parks, down pavements and over the speed limit without endangering other people - and those actions are intrinsic to the experience.

Anonymous said...

Crazy last night

Anonymous said...

Terrifying! I was sat in my car and watched the whole group pass. I had no idea if it was a riot, if they were out to cause damage.

One point to raise is that it was incredibly intimidating. How long until one of them kicks off a car wing mirror, get a kick from that, then the buzz escalates?

Anonymous said...

Having it out when there are loads of young kids out on the streets is simply reckless. Have fun but don't risk killing people in the process!

StReathamSoul said...

Thanks for collecting the info and vids!

Transpontine said...

Nick - you have a point, I like to think though that it's possible to have a degree of excitement without directly endangering pedestrians etc. The event was very similar to what Critical Mass do with cyclists every month, i.e. getting together in a big group and feeling powerful on the road. What Critical Mass do others may find frustrating and irritating, even sometimes threatening, but they have developed their own rules about what's acceptable, including not confronting motorists etc. Obviously motorbikes are intrinsically more dangerous than pushbikes, but those involved could and should develop their own rules. They will need to, otherwise they risk being criminalised. The point in recognising the link to a wider, ongoing subculture is that it is not just gangsters on bikes - well some of them might be, but if many of them were part of organised criminal gangs they would undoubtedly be shooting and stabbing each other rather than getting together in a large group from different parts of London.

Anonymous said...

They nearly ran over kiddies and pet dogs. Driving along pavements is not acceptable. One guy was nearly killed when a tricycle leapt onto the pavement because a car obstructed his passage. All the traffic was held up because the bikers formed a blockade across the main road. No doubt the police and borough councils will put an end to this 'fun' because of some stupid idiots.

Indigo said...

Five of them came out of nowhere and raced down our road (a 20mph side road)- three quad bikes and two motor bikes - the vibration of the noise of their engines setting off several car alarms. :-(

Anonymous said...

I guess I saw a bit of this on Streatham High Road last night. Lots of police and bikes about, then a guy on a scooter ran the red light by St Leonard's church while I was crossing. I was about a quarter of the way across with a baby strapped to me, with my wife and other kid walking just behind. Scooter guy didn't attempt to stop, just rode past, deliberately and casually. Good job I slowed down a touch when I saw him coming - just had an inkling he wasn't going to stop. Great fun for them, but me just ambling on home wishing I'd had something throwable on me.

Aldo said...

With the greatest respect Transpontine, I completely disagree with you. With the amount of people that we're on the roads and some who drove on pavements and parks is completely unacceptable. Pavements/parks etc are meant for pedestrians and pedestrians only. The fact that a mother in Brockley had to jump in front of her children to save them from a bike hurtling towards them makes me sick to my core. Furthermore, why on Halloween when there are likely to be more people, particularly children out on the streets? It's moronic and needlessly endangering peoples' lives. Therefore, if this foolish "Bikelife club" want to carry out these mass rides, they can do so somewhere else. They are not welcome.

Transpontine said...

Just to be clear, I'm not defending people riding on pavements as should be clear from the 'f...ng idiot' comment in post.

Lou said...

Thank you for explaining this. I was in my car at a junction in Mitcham when they came speeding down the road, many without lights, going through the red light and round both sides of my car. a very scary experience and if I turned right a few seconds before there could have been a nasty accident. This is not right. Can't find much online about this, any ideas if anything was being done by police, and/or planned attempts to shut this down next year?

Anonymous said...

The police stopping this is not as simple as it sounds. Its not against the law for a large group of people to gather together to ride their bikes together on the public road, once the ride has started if some people within it are breaking traffic laws it would be quite difficult for the police to intervene there and then.

Born to Ride said...

Agree that there were obviously some idiots and thoughtless behaviour, but to get it in perspective it doesn't sound like anyone was killed or injured, or victim of a crime (e.g. robbed or assaulted). Compare with at least 48 pedestrians and cyclists killed in London this year so far, only one of which involved a moped/motorbike

Born to Ride said...

Here's the list of road deaths referred to in previous comment: http://www.visionzerolondon.org/p/deaths-in-london.html

dougie said...

Where were the police again this year ??? These idiots came at me last night on the wrong side of the rd in old kent rd and I had to swerve to avoid one bike nearly hitting a car on my left !!!! Old bill are arseholes for not stopping this again...it happened last year as well

dougie said...

absolute idiots !! NO POLICE AGAIN WHY??

Anonymous said...

I live next to Hilly Fields in Hilly Fields Crescent. This was absolutely terrifying. They were riding all over the park which had lots of dogs, dog walkers and joggers in it as usual and have churned up much of the grass. The sheer thuggish bloody minded selfishness of these people is mind blowing. And, seriously, the police can do nothing??? I, for one, would be delighted to hear that one of them had come off and injured themselves severely. They could so easily have killed someone else.

Dougie Dickson said...

I'm also a biker but was shocked with the absence of the police...it's not on at all.

Nick Barron said...

"The event was very similar to what Critical Mass do with cyclists every month, i.e. getting together in a big group and feeling powerful on the road."

I'm sorry, the two things are nothing alike and that sounds - one is essentially law-abiding and safe, the other isn't.

"What Critical Mass do others may find frustrating and irritating, even sometimes threatening,"

People getting annoyed about getting stuck behind slow-moving traffic is not comparable to people being scared and endangered.

"Obviously motorbikes are intrinsically more dangerous than pushbikes,"

Quite - this is the reason why the comparison is bogus.

"but those involved could and should develop their own rules."

Why? There are perfectly adequate laws of the road that we all have to abide by. If you want to come together and ride bikes, you can do so within the rules that we have a society have developed over time and with regard for public safety.

"They will need to, otherwise they risk being criminalised."

No, their behaviour is already criminal.

"they would undoubtedly be shooting and stabbing each other rather than getting together in a large group from different parts of London."

That sounds quite a lot like the kinds of argument made in favour of Kids Company. *We have to do these things, otherwise there will be riots*. Sorry, not buying it.

I get that people like to ride their motorbikes in large numbers and that's fine - there are plenty of legal and respectful ways to do it, without the rest of us having to put up with insanely dangerous behaviour on the basis that otherwise they might have to stab eachother. This is the soft bigotry of low-expectations.

pete said...

if they were simply riding around in a large mass being noisy but staying below 20/30mph it would be anoying, this isnt just that by any stretch of the imagination. There actually is a simple and safe(er) option, gon on a track day. pay £150 and tear round brands hatch for a few hours. The Isle of Mann TT is a amzing, the community buy in and make sure that propoerty and those who dont want to take part are seperated. A five yearold with a bucket of sweets is no danger to a 200kg bike/dickhead combo

Nick Barron said...

PS - I should add, the background in the article is very interesting, thanks.

Anonymous said...

Get a life, No one died.

Transpontine said...

Nick, maybe I didn't express myself clearly on the gang thing, I didn't mean to suggest that the ride was stopping gang violence, I was responding to some of the things I'd read which implied that all these kids on bikes were criminal gangsters. My point was that if they were, they wouldn't be joining up together in this way, because these little local gangs don't get on!

Yes there was some stupid behaviour, but instead of having low expectations I do expect that the people involved are capable of regulating themselves. As someone said above there are practical and legal reasons why it would be difficult to stop this kind of thing if people are determined, so to reduce danger the people involved need to sort themselves out. Interestingly if you go on the 'UK Raise it Up' facebook page, where this seems to have been organised, people are having those kind of discussions. They are also raising the point that what they'd really like is somewhere to ride like this legally, which is an interesting one. I actually think it would be a great popular spectator event if you did have something like Ride London for Bikelife (i.e. closing down some streets by agreement for a period of time to allow it), though there would be a million health and safety barriers to making it happen I'm sure.

Anonymous said...

The arseholes coming right at me on the old Kent Rd on the wrong side of the road would have had I not swerved!!! Next time I won't move eh!!!!

Anonymous said...

I was at a bus stop in Stockwell and loved the rideout. It was exhilarating - the sound, the energy, the effect on bystanders.

chris smith said...

Many of them didn't have helmets or lights on...

still it was fun watching the speed cameras go off

no way they could prosecute as too many bikes in the shot..

Not a single pull over by the police

welcome to Tory Britain....

BPL Marketing said...

I'm a far from over the hill, 37 year old motorcyclist, I've ridden motorcycles all my adult life, my bike is a key part of my enjoyment of life and and my everyday commuting tool. But what I saw on Saturday night was completely unacceptable and only serves to heighten public hostility towards motorcyclists.

I'm all for teenagers and adults having fun on motorcycles but this was the wrong time and the wrong place. Halloween or not, the rules of the road are there to be obeyed for the safety of everyone. It is NOT ok to ride at night without lights, it is NOT ok to pull wheelies through red lights, it is NOT ok to ride on pavements and it is NOT ok to use your motorcycle, scooter or quad as a tool of intimidation.

I don't care for the argument to "lighten up, no-one died". That was down to luck more than judgement of those involved.

It's also nearly impossible for the police to stop this sort of mass behaviour, so I would like to call on those involved with "Bikelife" to police themselves. Take a leaf out of the book of "The Gentlemans' Ride"', an annual mass ride-out held for charity and within the rules of the road, or the "Ride to the Wall" held each year by the Royal British Legion.

As a biker, you have an opportunity to enhance our public image, rather than dismantle it. Yes, have fun, but grow up a little.

Anonymous said...

Well said BPL... needs more responsibility. Also if the police ain't gonna stop it at least let other road users know it's coming up in advance !!

Anonymous said...

I was in New Cross driving towards Deptford in very slow traffic when I heard a noise that got louder until I saw all the bikes coming towards me. Not content with streaming down the other side of the road, they crossed over on to ours as well and were weaving through all the, by now, stopped traffic - miraculously my car wasn't scratched! It was the most frightening experience I've ever had. Although they just seemed to be enjoying the experience it felt very threatening due to the sheer numbers, and there is always the possibility in these times that it could easily turn nasty. The police wouldn't have been able to do anything, it would have taken the army to stop them!

Anonymous said...

what doesn't get mentioned in these comments is the amount of people and KIDS enjoying the ride out smiling laughing putting there thumbs up and waving because its exciting for people to see all i see is negative comments everywhere , the amount of curse words and bad vibes towards the bikers is unbelievable , as for the people complaining about the lack of police presence they were trying to stop an illegal warehouse rave in brixton were full scale violence broke out 19 officers were injured and even a police dog but yet the ride out causes 0 injuries or violence and this is where all the negativity is pointed towards

Anonymous said...

I am a biker and have been for over 40 years, I have never done wheelies on the old kent road on the wrong side of the road at approximately 60mph in the dark going against oncoming traffic like they didn't care about other road users which they clearly did not by the way..... as some were doing with no Helmets on no number plates, no lights, no protective clothing unless trainers count nowadays !! Most bikes actually were scrambling and dirt bikes and the owners (unless stolen) were wearing balaclavas.How dare people defend these actions .... It was diabolical no matter how much the kids liked it. The legality alone was serious and should be sorted for next year !!IT IS ABSOLUYELY AMAZING NO ONE WAS KILLED AS I SEEN AT LEAST 2 BOYS FALL OF THE BACK OF QUADS AND GOT BACK ON !!

Anonymous said...

I only just swerved the moped on the pavement at new cross - fine, personal freedom to have a one off ride around London but to actually ride on the pavement / wrong side of the road / no lights / jump traffic lights - no defence, by your actions your putting others health ar risk

And I repeat - the moped missed me by the proviable gnats breath

Anyhow justify it the way you want (kids smile as break traffic laws - yeah good one - so positive) and do it again next year but somebody will eventually get hurt

And while I am sure that this OTT reporting, the fact remains that crime apart from the breaking of the highway code was committed

http://www.standard.co.uk/news/crime/halloween-bike-gang-swarms-on-streatham-petrol-station-helping-themselves-to-fuel-as-workers-cower-a3105226.html

Anonymous said...

There have been enough comments from people who witnessed it to demonstrate that the Hallowe'en rideout was totally anti-social and designed to intimidate other road users and pedestrians - why else would participants ride on pavements and on the wrong side of the road? The fact that they chose to do it on Hallowe'en, a night which is often chosen to engage in anti-social behaviour of all types, speaks for itself.

Anyone with any pictures of riders going along the wrong side the road, on pavements or doing any other law-breaking stuff should immediately pass them to the police - if a number of them are arrested it will make them think twice about carrying out the same stunt next year.

Anonymous said...

Awesome !! Dito...

Anonymous said...

The problem is, the police don't do anything! They're fucking useless!
These twats aren't just doing this on Halloween, in fact if you live in Sydenham you'll hear them tearing around pretty much every night.

It's inconsiderate and from the perspective of riding off road bikes with no lights, number plates and therefore no insurance etc, completely illegal.

So the big question is, why don't the police do anything about it?

Anonymous said...

The problem now is that the police have been told not to chase any motorcycle if the rider has no helmet in case he crashes and these young "thugs" are exploiting this new ruling. It is a disgrace especially when law abiding drivers get tickets etc for forgetting to put on their seat belts yet these law breakers get away Scotland free!!