Cycling in London and Lent

When I lived in Oxford, I cycled everywhere. I was known to cycle from my house to the little Sainsbury's on St Giles, a journey of 0.1 miles according to Google Maps. I moved to London and was promptly terrified. I had left my lovely purple bike with a basket on the front in Oxford and was now bike-less and courage-less. Fast forward two years and I am determined to (a) save money by cycling when I can (b) save time by combining my gym time and my commute. 

Having gone through a succession of bikes acquired for £40 and promptly stolen from what I thought was a relatively secure spot locked to some part of my building's fire escape, and then another £50 bike (bestowed with a name this time – Gwendoline) which fell apart within a few rides, I have splashed out on a lovely new bike and accepted that it must live inside the flat. She's called Cecily and looks like this:


(photo credit)

Anyway, having found out that my current client, situated just off Berkeley Square, is not only the poshest client I could ever hope for (Molton Brown handwash?) but has showers, I have resolved that when practical* I will cycle to work, starting this week. 

So I thought I'd go for a practice run on Saturday, and my goodness am I glad that I did. Things I learnt:

– potholes are bad in a car. They're genuinely awful and terror-inducing on a bike (when a driver doesn't give you space to go around them and forces you through them)

– taxi drivers and garbage truck drivers shout at each other, loudly, with a very high expletive to sentence ratio.

– Whitechapel is pretty easy to cycle through because all the parked cars reduce the bus lane to a parking lane plus space for a bike. Less easy when a parent is attempting to control two small children and pulls one of them straight into your path.

– cars will turn left directly across you, despite having shown that they're aware of your existence, and force you to come to a tyre-skidding halt.

– so will pedestrians in Soho.

That's all the negatives (oh, I forgot – men in red vans will yell at you incoherently, apparently just for fun). The positives:

– Cecily and I had a magnificent time racing buses – and winning.

– Soho is really cool when navigated by bike because you actually notice all the little coffee shops and bars.

– It took me an hour door to door to my client. Which is about 5 minutes longer than I have to allow for the commute if I go by Tube on the Central line, and certainly no longer than when commuting by Jubilee line.

– I still have a huge amount of cycling fitness, given that I cycled for 2 hours on Saturday and didn't feel particularly sore afterwards! Woop for all those hours cycling in Oxford.

– I got home and stuffed myself with tuna pasta bake and macaroons with a clear conscience.

Therefore, as this week is the start of Lent, I resolve not only to give up junk food (including cake, which may put an end to my baking escapades – see tomorrow's post for the latest baking) but to take up cycling. Wherever practical (asterisk above) means:

– when not pouring with rain. Drizzle doesn't count.

– when I don't have plans to go to an event in the evening that I can't turn up to in Lycra.

– when I only have one place of work that day (i.e. not like last Monday, when I started in Canary Wharf, hitched a taxi-ride to King's Cross, had a meeting, then got the Tube to Berkeley Square… and back home to East London!).

Will I manage it? Will I survive the morning crush on the Mile End Road/High Holborn/Shaftesbury Ave? Will I keep it up for all of Lent? Will I write a blog post with even more bullet points?


2 thoughts on “Cycling in London and Lent

  1. Verity 17 March 2011 at 12:31 pm Reply

    What a great challenge. I cycle all of 1.3 miles to work in Oxford, but when we move house later in the year I am going to attempt cycling in from Kidlington – 4.3 miles according to Google maps. Good luck with it!

  2. Yvann 17 March 2011 at 1:45 pm Reply

    Well my current cycle is 7.6 miles each way and I’m coping, so hopefully you won’t find 4.3 too taxing. Good luck! I miss cycling in Oxford. Particularly zipping around South Parks Road and Holywell St…

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