At what point did all those American candy shops start popping up?
When the shops selling tourist tat had to close down because there weren't any. Although there were a few around before that. Westminster City Council is finally acting against a number of them.
And at what point did all the loud and colorful bike taxi thingies start showing up?
Rickshaws been around for some time. Many other places have acted to get them stopped but the legislation is different in London for hire vehicles than anywhere else. Westminster City Council has now started to prosecute various operators, mainly under the Control of Pollution Act for playing loud music.
Was I just not paying attention my last time there several years ago, or maybe the bike folks weren't out because I visited in the middle of winter?
Probably the latter although the numbers have been increasing through year on year as Westminster CC ignored them.
I should note at this point I guess that Westminster CC changed political colour this year for the first time in 58 years. May have some relevance.