I have a couple of weeks' worth of freelance shifts at my old company in South London, so with the sun shining in the sky this morning, I thought I would forgo the tube and head to work by bike — the very same journey I used to make frequently between August 2005 and October 2010, and spent most of last summer doing while I was employed on a short-term contract.
It's been very many months since I made this journey under my own steam, however (shamefully, I've been commuting by tube), and I was pleasantly surprised by improvements to the route: lots of new tarmac and changes around Hyde Park Corner which provides more room for pedestrians and bikes to cross the road. (That said, it was pretty chaotic this evening, because pedestrians and bikes can now mix freely, whereas before they were separated into different streams — I'm reserving judgement until I've cycled through here a bit more.)
This morning's cycle was ultra-quick, helped in part by catching all the green lights, but also because a good deal of the route — Constitution Hill, Buckingham Palace, Bird Cage Walk — was free of motorised traffic while workmen put crowd control barriers in place (or maybe they were taking them away — I couldn't quite work it out). It was such bliss to have the whole road reserved for bicycles only — in an ideal world it would be like this all the time!
It was the same going home this evening — and even on the roads where traffic was allowed, there seemed very few cars about. I'd like to think it will be the same tomorrow… but I won't hold my breath.
Total distance: 12.21miles (19.64km) | Ride time: 1hr 07min and 18sec | Average speed: 10.9mph | Top speed: 18.9mph
The weather has been so wet and miserable in recent weeks that I haven't even thought about cycling much less braved the great British outdoors. Plus, I've been extraordinarily busy — office-based freelance shifts during the day, home-based editing or social events in the evening — that I'm not sure I could have fitted in any cycling anyway. If that sounds like an excuse… well… you're probably right.
Anyway, I had a free day today and after sorting out some admin (issuing invoices and chasing others), I decided I'd go for a trundle to Richmond Park before it rained.
The weather conditions were very mixed. I wore longs and a t-shirt with my cycling jacket on top, so not exactly summer attire.
The sun would come out for a while, then disappear behind a bank of heavy grey cloud, only to re-emerge about 10 minutes later. It kept doing this for about two-thirds of my journey, before it just went dark and grey.
As soon as I hit Richmond Park, it was like entering a giant humidifier. The overly-long grass is holding so much water from a fortnight of ceaseless rain that you could practically see the steam rising off the fields as they baked in the sun. But once I got going around my usual route, it felt quite coolish in the shade of the trees.
Some things to note:
- Lots of birdlife around today, including the heron pictured above
- Lots of skittish bambi-like deer near Cycle Route 4
- Saw a cute little puppy while I was having a rest by a pond — he bounded up to me, sniffed my bike wheels and let me have a little pat. His owner kept calling him in a rather high-pitched voice. The dog's name was Ozzie.
- Nearly got squished by a London bus, driven by an impatient arrogant driver, as I cycled back over Hammersmith Bridge. Cycling over that bridge is dangerous at the best of times, so I try to take the lane, rather than get pushed off the road onto the pillars (which is what happened to a cyclist recently), and cycle very fast (I can do 18mph when I put my all in to it). And yet this bus driver thought he could overtake me by giving me about two inches of space. It's times like these I wish I had a video camera on my helmet to record registration numbers etc.
After so much time out of the saddle, I admit that cycling felt a bit too much like hard work today — but I enjoyed getting out and about. I think my bike computer struggled with the return to work as well, because part-way through my cycle it decided to stop recording my speed or distance. The figures below are guestimates of what I think I did.
Total distance: 15.55miles (25.10km) | Ride time: 1hr 28min and 59sec | Average speed: 9.6mph | Top speed: 21.5mph