Tuesday, 22 May 2012

Impressions of a novice cyclist in London

Out of my friends there are only three people I know who cycle regularly, the rest are fully fledged pedestrians. In my crusade to encourage those around me to cycle led to my good ol' friend Chris who was next on the list to be converted. Coming to London for the weekend and staying at my flat meant he had no excuses, especially as I have a girly, pink spare bike rusting away on my balcony waiting for a ride.

With the bicycle route set (a ride down Regents canal to Stratford, stopping along the way and coming back through East London), I thought it would be interesting to capture the thoughts and feelings Chris has about cycling  before and after the ride.

So I hereby give you, my profile on Chris!


Chris mentally preparing for the ride ahead

NAME: Chris

AGE: 26

TOWN: Brighton


HOBBIES: Plays in the band The Hundredth Anniversary, Arsenal fan, likes comic books and enjoys watching box sets on Sundays.

ALTER EGO: Tony Rutherford, Sales Extraordinaire


Last time I rode a bike it was a BMX when I was a child. I live in Brighton so don’t have the need to ride to work. Brighton is small and is easy to walk around. I never go on bike rides for pleasure. I have thought about cycling for fun but not many of my friends have bikes so it would be weird just going on my own for a bike ride. Safety isn’t a factor as to why I don’t cycle. If all my friends cycled, I would too.

How are you feeling about getting back on the bike and cycling today after so many years?

Nervous, because I don’t know the roads well. I am confident that there will be cycle lanes because cycling is a big thing in London. I am hoping that there will be good facilities to help us get to our destination safely.

You’ll be cycling on the Superhighway (CS2) today, what are your expectations?

I’ve never heard of it before, it sounds like it should be in a sci-fi film. I expect just bikes and no road for cars. I expect it to be made up of segregated lanes for slow, medium and fast paced cyclists….and flying bikes.

Stopping off for a tea on Regents canal and watching the cyclists and the joggers pass
So with high expectations of the Superhighway, four of us hit the road and started the 28 mile round trip. One of my friends was sporting a Boris Bike for the ride, he soon discovered that the rental bike 'had the turning circle of a fridge'.

Stopping at Broadway market for a tasty snack, we parked our bikes sandwich style with the Boris bike on top. Try getting your lock around that lot why don't ya!
Bicycle sandwich!

Chris not amused by the Superhighway

And then we hit Bow roundabout and joined the Cycle Superhighway to take us towards Spitalfields market. It seems that Chris wasn’t bowled over by the charms of the CS2 when he shouted to me:

                                    ‘Why are there cars in the Superhighway?’

Indeed Chris, why are there cars in the superhighway??

So with 28 miles under his belt and a mysterious hole in the crotch area of his jeans, I caught up with Chris to find out his final thoughts on cycling in London, novice style.

Did you enjoy the ride?

I really enjoyed it. You get to see parts of London you wouldn’t see when stuck on the tube. Cycling is a much better way to see London than on foot. It’s not as dangerous as I thought, I guess once you know the roads you grow in confidence.

What did you think of the Superhighway?

I thought it’s quite funny it’s called a Superhighway. It’s a bit ridiculous that cars park in it and that the lane disappears to the middle of the road for the bus stops. You are always pushed out into the road one way or another. It’s silly it’s called a Superhighway because there’s nothing super about it.

Cycling on the London roads, was it as you expected?

I had to really focus at junctions because the buses and cars are quite scary. You feel so vulnerable on the roads. There are a lot of potholes and glass on the roads which is dangerous because it pushes you out into the road to dodge them which is dangerous. This isn’t fair, especially with the Olympics coming when there will be an increase in cycling.

Would you cycle to work if you lived in London?

Definitely, it’s cheaper and you get lots of exercise.

Would you consider going for a bike ride as a day out again?

100% yes.

We finished up the day having a drink in a pub which had this beautiful 'Tour of Britain' wallpaper on the walls. Maybe it's a sign that Chris is onto bigger, better bike rides to come!  Better get those jeans fixed then Chris!



anniebikes said...

Awesome account of a cycling visit in London. It's interesting to get an unbiased opinion of the cycling infrastructure. Superhighway, eh? I'll bypass that one...

Don said...

I regularly read the London centred cycling blogs (Cyclists in the City, ibikelondon et al) and yours of course, so I'm used to seeing the 'superhighways' derided as nothing of the sort. Its fascinating therefore, to read how Chris's expectations were for something much more 'tangible'.

I expect Chris joins a whole legion of cyclists who feel let down by the strips of blue paint. On the other hand, its really encouraging to hear that a relative novice still considers London a good place to cycle. However, I wonder if he would say the same if he was a teenager or an elderly person, and not a fit young bloke?!

Nicola said...

Iiiiiinteresting. I bike to work, and to the shops, and basically everywhere because I can't drive, but that's in Hull. I wouldn't dare take on London.

Jono said...

Brilliant thoughts on what a super-highway might entail!


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