My bike came across in our shipment, so for our first few months in London I couldn't have cycled even if I'd wanted to. We did a lot of walking. Supermarket trips were limited to what we could carry in backpacks and with our hands, and if we wanted to visit somewhere more than 4 miles away, we had to figure out a public transport route to get there. Home delivery was incredibly useful for heavy objects.
|A typical bike lane|
Over those first few months, we saw that there are some real, off road bike paths around. You just have to hope you can get where you want to via those paths. We also spotted cyclists managing quite competently amongst the traffic, and identified local roads we'd be happy to cycle on.
Fast forward to now, and we cycle a lot. It's how we get to the supermarket on weekends (although after I took a tumble last year, Mr Bite carries the filled panniers!), I ride to work 3 days per week, and Mr Bite rides to work when the weather is fine (at the moment, pretty much daily). It's great, and I love it.
|A rare off-road path|
These local routes don't really rely on bike paths, but they are on roads without too much traffic and my route to work is designated as part of a cycle network. I don't know quite what this means given I'm on regular roads, but drivers seem to be considerate of cyclists, and the roads are generally either quiet or wide or both.
On the weekends, we have also ventured further afield by bike. The culmination of our cycling adventures (thus far!) was last weekend, when we cycled to Tower Bridge, watched it open, and came back via a loop along the north side of the Thames. As with many things in London, the cycle paths north of the Thames were better than those to the south. On both sides, though, a network of paths and road sections integrated with the long-distanced Thames Path walking trail. This made it a relatively easy journey, and a scenic one.
I realised on that outing that cycling in London is all about careful confidence. Where I once was nervous about cars driving into me, I now know that most cars are considerate - and crucially, if I integrate myself with the traffic it flows more smoothly than if I hesitate and wait for a stretch without cars (which doesn't happen!). Buses are particularly considerate to cyclists, despite their daunting size, and being able to cycle in bus lanes means you often move faster than cars and get to go on slightly better routes.
So whilst I'm not ignorant of the risks, and would never go out without a helmet, cycling in London can actually be really fun. It beats carrying everything by hand and needing public transport to travel more than 4 or 5 miles. It also allows for new experiences, such as cycling across Tower Bridge, and discovering the impressive cycling lanes around the old docks in East London (below).
|St Katherine's Dock - the left hand side is all a cycle path.|
If you want a break mid-cycle, London is full of opportunities for that too. At this time of year in particular, relaxing in a park mid-cycle is really delightful.
For now at least, I am a convert to London cycling (although you still won't see my darting between cars in heavy rush hour traffic). It's nice to know that I can get to a lot of places by bike if I want to - and have fun in the process.
Do you cycle regularly? Are there any cities or places you think particularly bike friendly?