Cycle City London
Seeing things from the perspective of a cyclist is great, especially when you experience it in a foreign city. The city where I learnt to ride a bike is Berlin. Even though it’s biking infrastructure is way behind other European cities, getting around the city by bike is fun and relatively safe…that makes it pretty difficult for other cities to compete with.
Recently I visited our friends from London Bicycle Tour Company. But the real reason for my short trip was a powwow of Cycle Cities, which is a loyalty programme amongst city bike tour operators. Sharing experiences and ideas is always great fun. After our first meeting in 2015 in Berlin, this year’s get together felt like a family reunion! And it is good to know that there are other companies that love to give city sightseeing tours from the vantage point of a bike.
Arriving in London, it was clear to me that taking the underground, overground or one of the world famous red double-decker buses was not an option for me. I wanted to feel the heartbeat of the city, that has twice the population of Berlin. So it was clear to me that I would rent a bike for the duration of my stay, even though I was a bit uncertain of what to expect from riding on the other side of the road, and in such dense traffic. In fact, it took me just two minutes to feel comfortable on the left side of the road, and if you’re an experienced cyclist you will experience the same.
One of my first impressions was the Londoners are health nuts! I saw hundreds of runners and even more cyclists on the streets of the city. It felt really good to see them making their way through the urban jungle, not using public transport. The greatest difference to Berlin is probably the higher number of racing bikes around, the lack of bike racks within the city, and the far greater number of bike shops and bike cafes in the inner city. The bike paths on the streets are narrow like in other cities, but it is totally okay to take the bus lane. If you avoid the arterial roads you may come across some of the so-called ‘Cycle Superhighways” whose network is being expanded around the city these days.
Traffic in general is much slower than in other places, which makes it easier to make your way safely through the cars. Waiting in front of the cars and buses at a traffic light, surrounded by other cyclists, you feel like you’re part of a vast school of fish. Once the light changes, it is fairly easy to figure out what your position amongst the others is. The atmosphere is friendly, as other road users seem to be much more aware of cyclists than elsewhere in the world. And if you experience rudeness, it will mainly be in rather well pronounced British terms like ‘Get out of my way, Darling’!
So if you plan to see London, get hold of a bike! And if you are not going on your own, you might check out the tours of the London Bicycle Tour Company or Alternative London. I tried both, and can recommend them with enthusiasm!
Feel free to share, and safe riding! – Martin.