“London is too big. Transport is too expensive. It takes too long to get anywhere”, said every Londoner. I was part of the collective whinge-fest, until this Easter, when a window of sunshine enabled me to cycle my bike across the city to my house-share. Having crossed over to the sunny side, I’m more inclined to retort, “On yer bike then!”
Sounds horribly smug, doesn’t it? No doubt adding to the notion of London cyclists being arrogant tossers. Stereotypes don’t come out of nowhere, but I can assure you that there are hundreds of ‘types’ of cyclists, pedaling away, for a whole host of reasons. Most of them being: they save money, fit exercise seamlessly into their daily routine and are single-handedly saving the planet…
Alice’s 7 Reasons to Cycle Around London
Apart from aspiring to the ranks of Captain Planet and Little Britain’s Marjory – Fat Fight Fighters’ Queen Bee – I have a few additional reasons for manically cycling through the city with my smile at full-beam.
- I’m impatient: In the time it takes to walk to the tube, wait, change tubes and walk from the station to work, I could have cycled all the way. Can you be bothered with the faff?
- It makes me happy: Feeling the speed, the elements and the burn as I literally pump my way to work makes me feel ridiculously buzzed. On the flip-side, if I’m sailing along, lost in the sensory feast of London’s ever changing cityscapes, that happiness materialises in a more tranquil, connected and inspired kind of way.
- It’s character building: Being able to physically get yourself from A-to-B is empowering. It’s also pretty bold as it goes against the general consensus that London cyclists must have a death wish – it’s no different to cycling in other cities, like Dublin. On a lighter note: cyclists aren’t the coolest bunch, they’re too busy werkin’ it to care whether their raincoats are the right shade of black – this is liberating. Of course, our hipster friends might not agree.
- I can explore: London is a chameleon and the only way to uncover all of its shades and gain an HD perspective is to jump on a bike. If you’re snail-paced like me, walking just won’t cut it. On a bike you can zip away from main roads, slip on to the canals and drift through residential areas for a compact slice of life.
- It’s invigorating: I love being exposed to the elements – it gets my pulse going and makes me feel alive! The breeze connects you with your speed and your environment. Dude, so zen.
- I tamed The Beast: London is like an over-sized beast that can overwhelm with its vast concrete wilderness. Returning after six years of expat life left me flummoxed – how the hell do you tame it? Shooting along its core arteries and off down its capillaries will help you realise that really, it’s not that big.
- It’s a free activity!: On those lazy days when no one will come out to play, there’s no need to fester at home. Take #BikeyMcBikeface for a spin. These little trips provide fodder for my Instagram account, while giving me time to truly absorb and appreciate my surroundings.
*Cycle Safety on London’s Roads
All you need to do to stay safe on London’s roads is to bag yourself a helmet and some bike lights, signal clearly to traffic when manouvering – I like to make eye-contact with drivers and give them a thumbs-up to confirm acknowledgement – and most importantly, ASSERT YOUR PRESENCE. Drivers will give you a wide berth once they know you’re there, but if you nervously hug the kerb, you may be overlooked. Throwing a quick glance over your shoulder before signaling will alert drivers to the fact that there is an oncoming obstacle and you may need to move out into the road.
The only times I’ve felt nervous cycling around London is during the Friday afternoon rush-hour – because of the high-volume of unpredictable cyclists. Stick to the rules, respect all road users, always play it safe and you’ll be grand. If you’re still nervous, I would highly recommend walking your route or travelling it by another means so you can suss out any tricky lane changes or traffic systems.
‘I like to ride my bicycle, I like to ride my bike!’
Whining about London’s expensive and vast transport system is a rite of passage, despite the fact that it really is a fantastic network – and it’s only going to get better with the elusive Night Tube and Cross Rail. It’s just much easier to appreciate from afar. Minus the cost and the mindless shoe-staring battles on an underground commute, cyclists’ journeys become a much more significant part of their day. Too smug? I’m sorry, I just want everyone to feel like they’re coming up on M.D.M.A. as they waltz into work…