The Joy of City Cycling

Since returning from my holiday last month I have decided to become more money conscious. The first thing I thought could be streamlined has been my monthly travel costs. With a zone 1-2 monthly travelcard rolling in at just over £100, I decided it was time to brush off the bicycle I have sitting outside my door and get moving. By combining exercise and commuting = less money spent on tube travel and less money spent at the gym. Quids in!

Photo by DaveBleasdale

My journey from home to DMC HQ is about 5.5 miles so it was just a case of pumping the tyres, fitting the lights, donning my helmet and off I go. Surviving my first attempt was nothing short of a miracle. Cycling in rush hour is serious business. The roads are a minefield, your eyes and ears need to be open and alert at all times. It’s a sure fire wake up call dodging between buses, cars and the (notoriously ignorant) white vans, and that’s not the mention the other cyclists! At each set of traffic lights, cycles line up as if they are partaking in the 100m sprint on sports day. Red, heads are down, amber, legs are locked into position ready for GREEN, that first crucial rotation that determines your position (until the next set of lights).

Photo byJames Cridland

Since the launch of Transport for London’s cycle hire scheme (aka Boris Bikes) last summer it is now not only experienced cyclists taking on the commuting challenge but tourists and total novices too.

Photo by psd

The first cycle scheme was in the Netherlands but resulted in the theft of all the bicycles within one month. The French launched a free bike sharing program called Velos Jaunes which was far more successful than in the Netherlands and still remains today (although is no longer free!) The UK first tried a bicycle sharing scheme in Cambridge in 1993 but the majority of them were also stolen within a year of it starting. It was from this point on that the schemes became members only, and hire of a bicycle required a small fee. Now successful schemes are running in Copenhagen, Helsinki, Lyon, Paris, Barcelona, Brussels, Dublin and a number of cities across North America.

Photo by James Cridland

The London scheme is now available to ‘casual users’ – the first half an hour is free and then up to £1 for an hour, going up to £35 for 6 hours (you have to register first though!) There are plenty of docking stations in the city and they are easy to use. There has been some interesting statistical analysis of the demographics of current TFL cycle hire users. Unsurprisingly its mainly the fair weather that leads to an increase in the number of cyclists. The most popular docking site is in London Bridge, the least popular is right by Paddington Station. If you are wanting to embark on some serious cycling across London, I’m not sure the big and bulky Boris Bikes are your best option, especially if you are contending with rush hour traffic and the lycra clad professionals at the traffic lights.

Top photo by ImQQ!

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