In the past few years London has seen a huge surge in knife crime. In May, 11 people were stabbed to death in just 16 days, and according to the EveningStandard, 15 teenagers have already been killed in 2017. A new all-parliamentary group will be launched this month to try and find ways to reduce the number of young deaths.
In the meanttime, a new subculture has been brewing which aims to counter the violence. Under the mantra of #BikesUpKnivesDown, thousands of teens have been taking to the streets to bike with their peers in mass ride-outs. It's an alternative to selling drugs or knife crime and the young bikers are breaking all sorts of postcode wars and stereotypes as they take to the roads. They have a strong sense of community, with older riders are stepping up to mentor youngers. Like so many other contemporary collectives, they use social media to connect and organise events.
When the directors of the Bikes up Knives down documentary, Conor Cronin and Ronan Gallagher, first heard about the teens, they had to counter their own prejudices. “Initially we thought these teens were simple street thugs,” they said. “The more we learnt about them, the more we felt compelled to document this movement and tell their story; one that is commonly misunderstood.” Recently the bikers have been recognised for paying their respects to the victims of the Grenfell fire, holding a two minute silence outside the site of the fire after biking down from Tower Bridge, and they've also been looking to push their riding into becoming a recognised sport.
Cronin and Gallagher spoke to three of the bikers in depth for the documentary, who explained more about why they do what they do:
@writeoffworld: “Doesn’t matter what colour you are, what your background is, how rich how poor, as long as your on your bike here to ride - thats the main interest that we all share.
@Nl.Kizzy: “Kids in London they chill on blocks, get influenced to do certain things… sell drugs.”
@jake100_: “We have a reason to stay happy, we don’t have a reason to go out and get adrenaline through crime, because we always have a bike where we can just go out with mates, have fun, have a laugh - theres nothing more enjoyable than that.’