London may not strike you as a particularly cyclist-friendly city at first glance, but if you look again, you might find that for a metropolis of its size, London is surprisingly easy to navigate by bike. Ever growing numbers of cyclists in London testify to this. And of course this equation also works the other way round: the more cyclists there are the more cyclist-friendly London will become, as the city administration will be forced to take cyclists into consideration when planning new infrastructure projects. So if you live in London and like cycling, don’t let the traffic scare you off: Get yourself a bike and let’s go!
Cycling around town
First of all, there’s no better way to explore the city! Cycling around town and enjoying the sights is not just for tourists. London is such an immense and ever-changing city that even if you live in London for many years, you will still discover something new every time you venture out of your home or work place. So make the most of it! On the next sunny weekend coming up (yes, they do exist), get on your bike and explore a new part of town. You can map out your route beforehand using the online Cycle Journey Planner or the free maps and cycle guides provided by Transport for London: http://www.tfl.gov.uk/roadusers/cycling/11598.aspx. You’ll be surprised to see how many designated cycle routes there are in London. You can get almost anywhere without having to go on one of the big roads!
There are of course also routes leading out of the city, ideal for a family day out on the bike. One obvious option is cycling along London’s many waterways. London has many canals with cycle and foot paths running along the side and no cars to be seen. Alternatively, you could cycle up the Thames towards Richmond and beyond, or explore the Lee River Valley, a large natural park stretching 26 miles from East London through Essex to Hertfordshire.
Many people who live in London use their bicycle for a very practical purpose: it gets them to work and back every day. If you feel confident enough cycling in London, it’s definitely an option worth considering. After all, it has many advantages: It’s a great way to avoid the throngs of people on public transport every morning and every evening, coughing and sneezing into your face, ramming their elbows into your rips and forcing you to listen to the music on their iPods. Instead, it helps you keep fit and saves you money – not only money for public transport, but also money you might otherwise spend on a gym membership.
Cycle and Socialise
As with many sports and activities, cycling in London is also a great way to meet others when you’ve come to live in London and don’t know many people yet. London offers a vast number of cycling clubs for all ages and fitness levels. Cycling events and rallies take place on a regular basis, ranging from rather eccentric activities such as bike polo and naked bike rides to simple cycle training events or social rides in and out of London. On the last Friday of every month, the Critical Mass London organizes an open ride through town to raise awareness of cyclists – a great opportunity to meet people. If you live in London as an expat, check out InterNations, a worldwide network for expats that organizes events and activities around town. You may well find other cycling enthusiast there, or a cycling group you can join.
Last but not least, a word of warning: Bicycle theft is a real plague in London. Make sure to always lock your bike to something. If there is no bicycle parking available, lock it to a tree or a steel railing. Never leave your bike out in a slightly dodgy area over night. Many bicycle thieves operate professionally, using special tools and vans to transport the stolen bikes.
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