Fast forward to now…

Big_ben

This is this morning’s view from my bike.

Three weeks ago, when I started my daily 12 mile (20km) roundtrip commute, I was too scared to cycle through Parliament Square. I’d get off my bike and wheel it along the footpath whenever I got to this very congested traffic roundabout. Now, nerves slightly on edge, I cycle through it, revelling in the knowledge that I’ve got this cycling-amid-London’s-crazy-traffic-phobia licked… as long as I don’t think about it too much beforehand, because that’s when the voices in my head try to talk me out of clambering onto my saddle in the first place ("remember the red bus that almost killed you, remember the red bus that almost killed you, remember the red bus that almost killed you" they mock).

Any commuter who thinks it’s safer to traverse the streets on the back of a bicycle rather than the tube or bus network has rocks in their head. You don’t cycle to escape the suicide bombers: you cycle to feel every nerve ending, every fibre of your being SING with adrenalin, fear and excitement. I truly don’t think you know you’re alive until you tackle the giant urban assault course which is London’s busy road network with nothing more than a helmet, a fluorescent jacket and some pedal-pushers for protection.

At the age of 36, I think I’ve discovered the meaning of the term ‘adrenalin junkie’… And I love it!

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19 thoughts on “Fast forward to now…

  1. Good to see you got your nerve back. Sydney roads are so unbike friendly, i can’t imagine riding in London. One of the things I most miss about living in Germany is that I don’t ride a bike anymore as a form of transport. I got so fit doing that and yes, it makes you feel alive. Great photo too!

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  2. All.
    One really needs to do this journey to understand the level of fear and the corresponding level of courage required to do battle with London traffic.
    Kim? Salut! Respect!
    Do you fancy a Brompton?
    Luv & stuff.
    Tim

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  3. Excellent! 🙂
    When I lived in downtown Toronto [quite] a few years back my bike was my main mode of transport. Particularly dangerous was ducking away from car doors that opened without any thought on the part of the opener. And believe it or not, I DID NOT own a helmet.

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  4. Dani, I think dedicated cycle paths make all the difference – some of my route has a dedicated cycle path and it just takes the stress (and danger) out of the ride. If only the whole 6 miles was like that…
    T, thanks 🙂 Re: the Brompton, I’ve changed my mind on that front. Have you seen the type of people that ride them??
    Melissa, at least when you drive a car you’ve got some sort of protection. It is so exposed on a bike – even the wind becomes a problem.
    Mme P – brave, or stupid, I haven’t figured out which yet 😉
    Alda, yes, tell me about the car doors! And the cars that don’t look when they drive off from the curb. The whole time I’m on the bike I’m just so AWARE of everything – and everyone – around me because you’ve got to be so on guard for the unexpected, is it any wonder I feel mentally exhausted whenever my journey comes to an end?
    raehan, I’m a nervy person, so I tend to err on the side of caution, so yes, I’m careful. No risks for me, thanks very much!
    patricia, I think the thing that annoys me so much is not that the drivers have no respect for cyclists, it’s that we all have our priorities wrong. Why do cars get preferential treatment? Why do they get to hog the lanes? They guzzle precious natural resources, pollute the atmosphere and are lethal weapons to boot. Grrrr. Anti-car rant over now 🙂

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  5. Now I have this glorious vision of your morning commute. Now imagine my morning commute: from bedroom, to kitchen for coffer, then a very slow stroll from the kitchen to my in home office. No helmet required. Adrenalin rush optional (depending on coffee used).
    Would you like to trade commutes? No, I didn’t think so.

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  6. Ella, I love seeing Big Ben and the Houses of Parliament every day too. There are so many other London sites I see on my commute that make me smile as well – perhaps I’ll write a separate post about them at some point.
    Michele, on cold winter mornings when it is difficult to get out of bed, I would rather your commute than mind any day. 🙂
    Patricia, you might be sorry you said that 😉

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  7. Oh that’s a great post, I love it! I used to cycle to work a fair bit in London, from my flat in Putney to the top of Great Portland Street. It was adrenaline alright – utterly fantastic. My god, the adrenaline going round Hyde Park Corner and Marble Arch … those were the days. Of course it was a completely flat route too, which helped.
    I used to love booting in sleazy guys’ wingmirrors in passing. They were sitting targets in traffic queues, so why on earth they thought they’d get away with shouting pervy comments out their car windows to me I don’t know!
    Cycling in Edinburgh is painful in comparison to London as we seem to have a permanent wind here blowing into your face, and the city’s not flat, so it’s crap.
    Also, that was back in the early 1990s – I suppose we had the IRA to worry about back then, but not Al-Quaida. Not sure how I’d feel nowadays about cycling. Actually, probably safer than on a bus …

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  8. I’m with Alistair – I refused to drive when I was in London too and there’s no way I’d get on a bike. I think you’re completely nuts, but good on you anyway. You’ll certainly be getting fit, but look out for “bike bum”. I’ll stick with my commute – a 7 minute walk through the gentle streets of Victor Harbor. As I start work at 8am (ugh!) I sometimes see no cars at all.

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  9. Croila, I personally think the safest form of transport in London is a red bus. I’d do bus travel myself except it is so damn slow and would take at least an hour, if not longer, to get me to work. I do the cycle in roughly 40 minutes.
    Julia, how long have you known me, and you’ve only just figured out I am nuts!! 🙂 As for “bike bum” I’ve managed to escape that so far, mainly because my saddle’s quite comfy but also because I’ve had plenty of practice sitting on an excercise bike 3 x a week for the past two years!! Your commute sounds exactly like the one I had when I lived and worked in Leongatha!! The most exciting thing I used to see back then was perhaps a stray cat or a pigeon!

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