Escape from Christmas: cyclists pedal an alternative vision

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The Independent Online

They congregated to avoid a heavy Christmas Day of turkey and booze followed by hours slumped in front of the television.

If not quite "Cyclists Against Christmas", the thirty or so people who gathered in Greenwich's Cutty Sark Gardens yesterday morning did want to promote an alternative more athletic lifestyle for Christmas Day.

For them, it was a bike ride to a Lebanese restaurant in London's Edgware Road (about 10 miles) with no turkey on the menu and a vegan option.

It was like manna from heaven for Doug Bollen, 71, who had spent years scouring the country in vain for a restaurant who could supply him with a vegan meal on Christmas Day.

"It is only really possible to get a vegan meal on Christmas Day at an ethnic restaurant," he said. "Generally it has been difficult eating out."

Doug, who is retired, is a late convert to cycling. He was persuaded by his doctor to take it up after he experienced hip problems which prevented him from walking long distances.

"Cycling is all right," he said, "so - although I've got a bus pass - I don't tend to use public transport now."

Doug's partner, Cheryl Williams, joined the group for the first time this year. "It's the first time I haven't gone back to my family. I'm pleased and enjoy not having the pressure of being home at Christmas," she said.

The Christmas Day cycling ride is the brainchild of Barry Mason, 53, a keen cyclist with Greenwich Cyclists. He first had the idea three years ago, but only four people turned up for the first ride.

Since then it has snowballed, with adverts in Time Out and slots on BBC Radio London's Danny Baker show. This year there were about 35 escapees - a similar number to last year.

For most of the cyclists, it was a chance to cycle round London and enjoy the capital for the first time.

The youngest person on the ride was 11-month-old Eleanor Moseley, who was in the company of her parents, Merrick and Jane.