London is a Bike Town

The first stop on our Mobile Social Worldwide was London and we connected with local cyclists, the fixie scene, and a traffic engineer. We rode haphazardly on city streets, a hot lap in Richmond, and calmed roads with cycle tracks.

Typical Commute

Riding in London is aggressive and not for the timid. The photo sequence below demonstrates a commuter crossing a congested road into Hyde Park.

Stop

Mobile Social Worldwide: London

Wait

Mobile Social Worldwide: London

Cross

Mobile Social Worldwide: London

Those photos are reminiscent of the video game frogger and highlight the frustration of traffic engineer Brian Deegan (Camden Consultancy) who works very hard at calming roads, building cycle tracks, lanes and lights. In Camden and Westminster you can get off the busy streets and onto cycle tracks, but how would you know that? You need to ask or ride with a local, like alien8, to learn the tribal knowledge. I watched as commuters – at the rate of one every 4 seconds – rode right by a cycle track because it wasn’t apparent or easy to get onto.

Riding in London is as confusing as driving in a new city with various options, multiple paths and lanes. The city itself was built over the years without planning and the bike routes follow suit. It’s borough dependent and the quality of urban cycling varies vastly between them.

That doesn’t mean the city isn’t rideable, it certainly is, but get yourself a GPS with the London Cycling Network loaded or find a local to help you until you get your legs.

A Bike Town

London cyclists started riding about 10 years ago out of frustration with the Tube and haven’t stopped since. They’re everywhere and ride fixed, folding, road, and cargo. The city planners are catching up to their enthusiam. London has some of the bravest cyclists I’ve ridden with in conditions that would prevent many from commuting. Where else would lorries, cabbies, and cars brush you regularly? In London town.

It’s a bike town.



7 Comments

I lived in Richmond (the town, not the park) about 15 years ago and at that time there wasn’t much cycling at all beyond a core few people.  It’s amazing since Richmond is about 7 miles from the west end and it took about an hour to either drive or take the tube most days.  You could bike it in a tiny fraction of that.

It’s great to see how it’s taken off in the time since and particularly since the London congestion charge came along.  There’s still a boatload of traffic in London, but I’ve always found everyone to be pretty sane about it.  At least there isn’t that “I’m going to intimidate that cyclist out of my way” thing that you get in New York.

Hey Hugger,
Glad to hear you were in my part of the world. Yeah, cycling in London can be a bit of a challenge but its one of those things you quickly get used to especially if your cycling into work everyday. There is other websites I would highly recommend instead of the one you listed, I wrote about them here: find London cycle routes. CycleStreets and Sustrans website being the two best.
Anyway, enjoy the rest of your tour

We were in London this summer, and I was amazed to see so many people commuting by bike, and how close they ride with the vehicles. I will never again complain about not getting enough room from cars and buses.

Agreed and I think for the most part they all just get along—like the woman in the photos. That’s just what she did.

Agreed—Pam and I took a wrong turn onto a one-way loaded with cabbies. Held our ground and they moved out of the way. They weren’t happy, but none were angry with us.

We have been cycling for a lot longer than 10 years. ;)

Even Critical Mass has been running here since 1994.
And the LCC (since 1978) history here http://www.lcc.org.uk/index.asp?PageID=657

The biggest problem facing cyclists in London is the attitude of the motorists, which is improving, but is normally (and wrongly) along the lines of ‘roads were built for cars’.

I cycle a modest 2.2 miles every day rain, shine, snow, through some of London’s busiest streets daily.

Thank you for that perspective—I based the post on my second trip to London and the people we met, riding we did while there. In the few days I rode there I could see how even with the Tube, you can get around faster by bike. I did that going to camden was about 1/2 hour from the hotel and about 8 minutes by bike.

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