Cycling into the sunset


Tonight’s sunset was one of the most amazing urban sunsets I have ever had the pleasure of witnessing.

I stepped out of the office at about 5.50pm and everything seemed to be aglow. It was almost dark but the sky was lit up in the most vivid orange imaginable. The light was bouncing off everything: the river, the glass buildings, the road. And it was stunning.

All the buildings along the Embankment, lining the river, were in shadow, but the sky behind them resembled the skin of a juicy, ripe orange. The whole scene looked like a stage set. Not quite real.

Then, over Westminster Bridge, I held my breath at the beauty of Westminster Palace bathed in a dazzling gold light, the sky forming the most perfect backdrop of apricot and tangerine.

By the time I cycled around Parliament Square, the sound of Big Ben chiming 6pm, the heavens had turned a deep navy blue, and it was all over, just a small orange smudge fading in the distance.

Total distance: 12.38 miles | Ride time: 1hr, 14min and 46sec | Average speed: 10.50mph | Top speed: 20.1mph

Things I saw on today’s commute

Empty roads: For some reason there was little traffic this morning, and I trundled along Hammersmith Road and Kensington High Street on my almost-lonesome. Is it mid-term school holidays or something? Or did I just time my ride well?

Frost: The parked cars in my immediate neighbourhood were all dusted with frost. When I got to Kensington Gardens the lawns were like white carpet, almost as if it had snowed overnight. It was really pretty, especially with the morning sun shining through the bare-armed trees and bouncing off the white ground. It was a bit like cycling through a Christmas card.

Daffodils: In the space of a week clumps of green daffodil leaves have popped up everywhere, and some are even in bloom. How did that happen?

Soldiers: Clarence House, where Prince Charles lives, has installed two sentry boxes, complete with soldiers, on The Mall. Normally the sentry boxes and soldiers are on the inside of the main gate, now they are on the approach to the gate. This seems to have happened over the weekend, because they certainly weren’t there on Friday. It feels slightly surreal to cycle within a few feet of them. I wonder what they’d do if I rang my bell?

Female cyclists:
On my ride home I stopped at the traffic lights at Hyde Park Corner and did my usual cyclist count. There were seven cyclists around me — and every one of them was female! Normally, I’m hard pressed to spot someone of my gender on a bike, let alone seven ladies all together and not a male cyclist in sight. Interestingly enough, all of us were decked out in the same "uniform" — fleecy Altura cycling tights and flouro yellow jackets — demonstrating the poor choice in cycling "fashions" us ladies must contend with. Any budding entrepreneurs would see the marketing opportunities here, as not every female commuter wants to don fat-hugging Lycra, and nor do we want to look like cycling clones.

Total distance: 12.37 miles | Ride time: 1hr, 13min and 16sec | Average speed: 10.72mph | Top speed: 18mph

Cycling in the light — and a rant about the ‘daredevils’ who cross Hyde Park Corner

I snuck out of the office a little early today, which meant I got to cycle home while it was still daylight. I’d forgotten how lovely it was to cycle without the need for head or tail lights.

Mind you, dusk began to descend when I was still three miles from home, so I made sure all my lights were flashing, which is more than I can say for many of my counterparts on the road. Why so many cyclists persist in wearing all-black gear with not even a single reflector anywhere on their bike is beyond me. Even as a cyclist tailing along behind them, I can barely distinguish these black ghouls from the road. It must be almost impossible for a motorist, who has to peer through a thick windscreen, to see them.

Oh, and while I’m being critical of my fellow (irresponsible) cyclists, can I just remind the idiots that try to jump the lights at Hyde Park Corner every night, that this is possibly the worst intersection in the whole of London to try that little stunt. This is because:
(1) It’s a blind corner, so the traffic can’t see you (and you can’t see the traffic)
(2) The lights don’t seem to be properly synchronised with others in the vicinity, so you can’t always predict that there’s nothing coming around the corner. Just because there’s a gap in the traffic, doesn’t mean the lights are about to change. I have lost count of the number of near misses I’ve witnessed due to cyclists making this error.
(3) The traffic shunts around here at speed, and because there are no lane markings the cars and buses and motorbikes seem more concerned about fighting for their space than watching for a cyclist who shouldn’t be there.

There. I feel better now. I hope the lady with the high-heeled boots and black cardigan takes note — especially given she didn’t have any lights and almost got skittled crossing Hyde Park Corner when she shouldn’t have been crossing it in the first place!

Total distance: 12.35 miles | Ride time: 1hr, 13min and 06sec | Average speed: 10.67mph | Top speed: 20.4mph

Roadworks city

It’s been a long time since I started my Monday morning with a cycle into work. I’m glad I made the effort, because aside from the occasional idiot* on the road, I got to the office feeling relatively energised.

The roadworks are a problem, though. For the last two miles of my route, it looks like practically every water pipe in town is being replaced. There’s a whole stretch cordoned off on the approach to Parliament Square, then I cross the river and there’s another long section on Upper Ground, and don’t even mention Southwark Street, which is a nightmare! The worst thing about these roadworks is the fact they leave little room for cyclists, so you’re forced to deal with the cut-and-thrust of the regular traffic — and most of these drivers are so pissed off about being stuck in jams that they don’t have much tolerance for cyclists wanting to cut in on their road space.

Actually, I just remembered there’s also "roadworks" in Green Park — directly over the bike path at the Buckingham Palace end. They’ve been "thoughtful" enough to put up a sign which tells cyclists to dismount and walk around the affected area. Can you image that kind of sign being put up on a road, telling motorists to get out of their vehicles and to push them around the cordoned off lane? No, I thought not. Needless to say every cyclist — me included — simply ignores the sign and cycles around the traffic cones and metal barriers.

* My personal favourite was the middle-aged guy in his black 4×4 who slowed
down to let me cycle across the zebra crossing between Kensington
Gardens and Hyde Park only to gun the engine as if he was going to run
me over just as I was about to cycle in front of him. I honestly thought he was going to make good on his threat. I guess he thought it was a funny joke, because he leered at me over the steering wheel with a lopsided grin. I was too shell-shocked to react, but afterwards I wished I’d either stuck two fingers up at him or simply kicked his bonnet with a well-positioned foot.

Total distance: 12.54 miles | Ride time: 1hr, 15min and 48sec | Average speed: 10.50mph | Top speed: 18.6mph