Cycling around London is a great way of getting to know the city and of keeping fit. Cycling also means that, barring accidents or the dreaded puncture, you are pretty much guaranteed to arrive in work on time - not something you can say when you travel by tube or bus.
Safety should be at the forefront of every cyclist's mind, particularly when cycling around a hectic city. So here are a few things to bear in mind when travelling on two wheels around London:
- Be seen! No matter how unfashionable a high-viz jacket might look, it is an absolute essential when cycling around London, particularly in the winter months. Cyclists in fluorescent yellow gear really do stand out and are far more likely to be seen by motorists.
- Wear a helmet. Again, not the most fashionable of accessories but the majority of cyclists in London do wear them. If you happen to get knocked off your bike by a car or bus you may be very glad you're wearing one.
- Know the rules of the road. Lots of local councils offer cycling profficiency classes and anyone who hasn't cycled since their school days should definitely consider taking one.
- Carry a puncture repair kit and pump at all times. London roads are absolutely covered in shards of broken glass and punctures are something all cyclists in the capital have to get used to. Hybrid bikes and racers are much more susceptible to punctures as the tyres are not as thick as mountain bikes, so it's worth carrying a spare tube or two as well if this is the type of bike you opt for.
- Spend as much as you can afford when purchasing your bike. Many companies now run 'Cycle to Work' schemes, which offer tax free bikes to employees who want to pedal into the office. The better your bike the more comfortable your journey will be.
Coping with Traffic when Cycling Around London
London is a busy city and, despite the introduction of the Congestion Charge, traffic around the city centre is still pretty hectic. Lorries, taxis and bendy buses are the bane of every cyclist's life and need to be given a wide berth at all times.
Here are some tips to bear in mind when negotiating traffic in London:
- Take the greatest of care when overtaking buses or turning left in front of or behind one. If you don't think it's safe, just wait behind the bus until it has moved out into the road again.
- If you find yourself on the inside of a lorry as it's about to turn left, stop and let it go on ahead. Otherwise you risk getting crushed or knocked onto the pavement as it turns the corner.
- When stopped at traffic lights, try and get ahead of the traffic so you're at the front of the queue and can be seen by everyone as the traffic moves again.
- Don't forget accidents can be caused by other cyclists as well as by vehicles. Keep a constant eye on fellow cyclists and check behind you before you pull out into the road or swerve to avoid a pothole.
By taking care and using your common sense, you'll find cycling through the streets of London can be a real pleasure. You'll discover parts of the city you never knew existed, and will soon realise that the city isn't as vast as it initially seems.