Even Storm Hannah couldn’t deter 200 cyclists from flying the flag for pedal-power around the streets of Winchester on Saturday for the third Mass Ride organised by campaign group Cycle Winchester.

Separate ‘bike-trains’ rode in from Kings Worthy, Badger Farm, Harestock and Highcliffe then merged for a celebratory lap of the one-way system.

Home-made cake and drinks awaited the riders in Abbey Gardens where the sun finally decided to come out and encouraged people to stay around and share their experiences.

Ride organiser John Arthur said: "Anyone who has ever cycled into and around our one-way system will know what a grim and scary experience it can be. To do the same journey in relative safety amongst a large mass of fellow cyclists can be quite exhilarating. However we hope that the good intentions within the Winchester Movement Strategy lead to bold initiatives that make cycling a natural choice for getting around without needing to find safety in numbers."

Fellow organiser Marc Rius has seen in his home city of Barcelona what a large, visible presence of cyclists on the streets can do to change thinking and priorities. “Winchester cyclists need to keep getting out on the streets like this. Local decision makers wanting to support healthier lifestyle choices will quickly realise they are pushing at an open door if the money is spent in the right way. If two hundred cyclists are willing to brave current conditions imagine how many people would choose a bike over a car if the streets were more welcoming”.

The Mass Ride routes are between two to three miles long and take about half-an-hour as they are ridden at a gentle inclusive pace, with a pause and pick-up point mid-way. No-one is sure of the oldest cyclist on the day although electric bikes mean age and hills are not the barrier they once were. Amongst many more youthful riders, one of the youngest was probably Eliana Pagden, who at the age of six made her first ever cycle into the city from Harestock. Her parents Josh and Louise said Eliana had only recently learnt to master her bike but it was clear to all that she is not too young to be a competent cyclist and well able to manage the distances involved. Hopefully many more parents with young riders will be inspired to give the Mass Ride a go.

Among those taking part were city MP Steve brine, county councillor Martin Tod and

Most drivers were respectful, supportive and patient but a tiny minority of impatient or aggressive drivers make it extremely hazardous to be cycling on streets which are crammed with cars.

In fact the town centre lap which on previous rides has taken about 10 minutes was often slowed to a crawl this time due to the sheer volume of motor traffic.

Tentative plans are underway for Mass Ride 4. Those unable to wait for more bike thrills around the city can join in with Winchester Cycle Fest and Family Ride on June 9, part of the Winchester Criterium - details at www.winchestercriterium.org . And Sunday 22nd September is World Car Free Day when it would be good to see as many of Winchester’s residents as possible joining in with this global initiative.