Typepad flags up London Cycling Diary; London Cycling Diary is shamed into updating this blog!

I’m not normally someone who honks their own horn, as it were, but I got a mention in Typepad’s newsletter and blog last week in a post headed Typepad Tours London. As a consequence the number of visitors to this site has trebled, and I’ve been shamed into actually updating it after a two-week hiatus. How typical.

So, if you’re a new visitor, bear in mind I do a lot of ranting here. Cycling in London is nowhere near as dangerous as you might believe, although the way I bang on about the idiots on the road you might be forgiven for thinking otherwise!

I first started cycling in August 2005 — you can read my first post here — and I haven’t looked back since. 

I don’t propose to be an expert cyclist or even a dedicated one (I only cycle to work two or three times a week, I blame my lazy gene and inability to get out of bed in the morning), but it has revolutionised my life. I feel fitter, happier, less stressed and more toned. And I no longer have to find time to go to the gym.

If you’re here because you’re considering becoming a commuter, give it a bash, I’m sure you won’t regret it!

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Thank-you please

Is there something in the air?

As a city cyclist I often feel I’ve become a member of the world’s most loathed collective. And, because of that, I tend to be very well mannered when I’m on the bike. Perhaps it’s a form of compensation, a way of demonstrating to the rest of the law-abiding public that not all cyclists are idiots: I don’t jump lights, I don’t ride on the footpath, I’ll let people into the gaps.

They say what goes around comes around, so perhaps my politeness is paying off. Actually, an old friend of mine used to describe these as "god points" — you do something nice for someone and you get extra credit from the All Mighty, not that I’m a believer, but you get the concept.

Anyway, on tonight’s journey home I was cruising around Parliament Square and needed to move into the next lane. I turned my head to check for traffic and made eye contact with the driver of a car accelerating at very fast speed in the lane I wanted to enter — I could actually hear the motor revving as he came racing (there’s no other word for it) around the corner. I had to make a split-second decision: stay where I was and take the wrong exit off the square, or merge into the lane and hope that the driver would see me and ease off.

I chose the former, because I didn’t trust that the driver would be able to stop in time. But then he started honking his horn. At first I thought, "WTF, I haven’t done anything wrong!" And then I realised it was the driver’s way of apologising — he knew I’d wanted to enter the lane but his speed had put me off.  So what did he do? He slowed right down and made room for me to enter the lane in front of him. In fact, he waved me into the lane — and he was actually smiling and not doing it through gritted teeth!

I gave an appreciative nod of my head and continued on my way thinking how wonderful it was that not all motorists are hell bent on running us off the road!

Later, a little closer to home, a taxi driver did something similar, letting me in front of him at a set of traffic lights where there was little room to do so. He went so far as to reverse his vehicle a little. "There you go," he told me through his open window. "I don’t normally do this for everyone!"

"Ahh, but I’m not everyone," I replied, a little cheekily.

And finally, just 50 metres from my front gate, I stopped to let a pedestrian walk across an intersection. "Thank-you so much," she beamed at me, a look of astonishment on her face. I bet it’s the first time a cyclist has let her have right of way instead of cutting dangerously in front of her — I just hope it’s not her last.

Two weeks, two cycles

I’m not sure why, but I have had serious case of the can’t-be-bothereds lately, which means I haven’t done much cycling. In fact, since my last post I have only ridden the bike twice — on Thursday September 13 — and today. Pathetic.

Anyway, for posterity, here’s the details of both trips combined (because I forgot to reset the bike computer after the first ride):

Round trip total distance for both rides: 25.28 miles | Ride time: 2hr, 38min and 14sec | Average speed: 10.20mph | Top speed: 19.3mph

Yesterday’s journey

No cycling today. I took the day off work, mainly to mooch around the house and get a few bits and pieces done, but let me tell you about yesterday’s commute.

The morning ride in was busier than normal, but sometimes you get into the flow of things and become "one" with the traffic — does that make sense? — and everything comes together, you catch all the green lights, you don’t get stuck behind any big vehicles and others let you into their lane with a nod and a smile.

The journey home was equally rewarding. The highlight, though, was cycling the length of Kensington High Street with a group of fellow cyclists. We were all strangers, but all of equal ability (typically, I was the only female) and we journeyed together for about a mile-and-a-half as a "caravan", taking up an entire lane and watching out for each other — no undertaking, tailgating or cutting up — and boy, was it fun. We were travelling at the same speed as the motorised traffic and it felt good. I came home and told my Other Half it was just like cycling the Tour de France — but without the drugs or blood doping!

Round trip total distance: 12.64 miles | Ride time: 77min and 00sec | Average speed: 10.47mph | Top speed: 19.1mph

Madness on the roads

It’s official. Today’s journey was the slowest I’ve ever had the pleasure of undertaking. Why?

Two words: Tube. Strike.

Every dingbat with a bike they haven’t ridden in god knows how many years had dusted it off to ride into work this morning. People with the seat too high, or too low. Tyres only partly inflated. Squeaky brakes. You get the idea. And with no f**king clue regarding road rules, respect for other road users or how to keep yourself out of dangerous situations. I swear I’m going to get a t-shirt printed that says SIDLE UP ALONGSIDE A CONVOY OF RED BUSES AND YOU MAY AS WELL ORGANISE THE FUNERAL NOW!

Grrrr.

Aside from the twits on their bikes, there were other hazards to take into consideration: gridlocked traffic, swarms of pedestrians, about a trillion buses and more scooters and motorbikes than normal. There was so much congestion, I often had to sit at the lights for two sessions before I could make my way across various intersections. And don’t even mention Hyde Park Corner. I think it took me 15 minutes to get across it this morning!!

When I finally arrived at work I was exhausted — not physically but mentally. It was like I’d spent 45 minutes playing a life-and-death arcade game with the world and his wife.

The return journey was equally tiring and frustrating. I’ll be glad when the tubes are back up and running as per normal — supposedly on Friday — because I want my road space back!

Today’s round trip total distance: 12.82 miles | Ride time: 80min and 46sec | Average speed: 9.96mph | Top speed: 19.5mph

Cycle in the sun

Bike

Okay, so this blog is supposed to be about cycling in London, but I couldn’t resist posting this picture taken on my recent holiday to the island of Ischia, in the Bay of Naples.

There were bikes everywhere, albeit a lot of crappy rusty things (for the adults) and a helluva lot of pink shiny things (for the little girls), but it was nice to see people using them to get around.

Mind you, the way those crazy Italians drive, I’m not sure I’d be brave enough to take to the road on a bike. Not even the motorised variety.

A slow return

My first day back on the bike after a two week rest, and typically it’s like the world has gone mad.

The morning journey is relatively smooth, but the route home is crazy! There’s a three-day tube strike in action, which catches a lot of commuters off guard. The roads are gridlocked (mainly by taxis) and I’ve never seen so many pedestrians in my life. Great swarms of them take over the streets (and the cycle paths!!), so cycling is an incredibly slow and treacherous experience.

When I get home I’m grateful to find I am still in one piece!

Today’s roundtrip total distance: 13.08 miles | Ride time: 83min and 13sec | Average speed: 10.11mph | Top speed: 21.1mph