Cycling in London: the ‘mares and the myths

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Cycling in London has a bad rep. And anyone can see why; the roads are mental and it’s still recovering from a large string of fatal cycling accidents which occurred in November 2013 (those which led to BoJo’s typically well-thought-out response making it sound like he was blaming cyclists for being reckless).

A few years ago, the Census showed that the number of people living in London who cycled to work more than doubled from 77,000 in 2001 to 155,000 in 2011. And today, despite the tarnished image of the two-wheeled commute, many Londoners are still taking to the tarmac in escape of the ‘mares of TFL – and one of them was me a couple of months ago. In fact, I know my first journey was the 30th March because I remember being quite pleased with myself for timing it with the clocks going forward and having more daylight – completely by accident of course.

Here’s me cycling through Tooting Bec Common (the nicer part of my daily commute – and please note, I do not take selfies whilst on an actual road with cars because that would be stupid)…

Girl with cycling helmet

Always wear a helmet kids!

 

… and this is my trusty steed (bought from Amazon for £150)…

Ideal bike

 

I was bricking-it a little on that first cycle from Streatham to Victoria back in March. I nervous-sweated like a madman and wished that I’d brought a change of top to work with me. But now I’ve gotten used to it, cycling in can be the highlight of the day for me. When there are blue skies and sun-rays shining through the morning haze and making the dew glisten on the grass as I cycle through Tooting Bec Common, it makes me feel almost euphoric and I think:

Why did it take me so long to ditch public transport?!?! Who would choose a sweaty and crowded overground over this?!?!

And don’t get me wrong, there are some days (mainly when it’s hideously windy or when I’m hungover) when I wish I could just hop on the train and not have to concentrate hard in fear of my life. But they’re few and far between.

And on those wonky days I just remind myself of why my life has been better since I’ve started cycling:

  1. I’m saving myself £145 per month (this is how much a zones 1-3 railcard costs)
  2. I’m also saving myself £43 per month (this is how much I used to pay for the gym before I realised I cycle 12 miles everyday and probably don’t need much more exercise than that)
  3. I’ve lost 3kg and toned up my thighs nicely, without even trying
  4. I’m getting an extra hour of outdoors everyday
  5. I’m making public transport that little less crowded

So if you fancy giving cycling a go, here are some helpful tips:

  1. If you buy a second-hand bike make sure you get it serviced. The brakes on mine were knackered
  2. Get your bike serviced at Halfords, rather than Evans Cycles, it’s about £20 cheaper
  3. Wear a helmet – you won’t look cooler without one
  4. Buy some high-vis – and if you don’t want the jacket, go for the rucksack cover like me
  5. Google your route and go for the one that cuts out as many of the main roads as possible
  6. Then practice it on the weekend before you head out Monday rush hour (I didn’t do this and it was a mistake – I took me double the amount of time it should have because I stopped so often to check the route on my phone)

And generally if you have your wits about you (never listen to music) – following all the same road rules as the cars – and you’re wearing a helmet and some sort of high vis, you have no reason to worry. Myth dispelled, cycling in London is not nearly as scary as you think.

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