How cycling revolutionised my life in the city
- By London Cycling Campaign on at 3:28pm 23 October 2014
- Posted in: News and blogs
- Tagged with: bike, routes, advice, cycling, new cyclist
In the first of our series of cycling stories from London Cycling Campaign supporters and members around London we hear from Joshua Worth who lives in Haringey.
This is my story of how I first started cycling in London about 2 years ago, and how it has completely revolutionised my life in the city.
I used to hate the monotony of the tube and the bus, trudging along the same stretch of road every day to the station, sitting with all the other commuters feeling emasculated, deindividualised, and depressed. Every journey was the same, and would continue with or without any input from myself. On occasions services would be cancelled or delayed, and the sense of frustration and impotency caused by my apparent powerlessness against the transport machine was overwhelming.
I had enjoyed cycling for many years, but had been put off taking it up in London from the media horror stories, and my poor knowledge of London geography. However, as my dislike of the undignified ritual of being squashed against the windows of a tube train at rush hour grew ever stronger, I decided to go for it anyway, and I haven’t looked back since.
I bought a second hand racing bike from Camden Cycles, and proudly rode it home. Within a few short days I had fallen completely in love, relishing any opportunity to visit a new area of London. I cycle on average around 100 miles a week and I enjoy every minute of it. I have become zealous in my endorsement of cycling to friends and family. The joy of motion and physical exertion turns a once dull commute into a highlight of the day.
There are of course risks to cycling in the city, but don’t let what you read in the media put you off. With a bit of common sense, and knowledge of the rules of the road, it’s really not so hard. That being said, I wouldn’t recommend jumping on a Barclays Bike and heading straight for Hyde Park Corner or Ludgate Circus. Organisations like London Cycling Campaign offer advice, and if you’re not confident, cycle skills sessions (free from most councils) are ideal to ensure you don’t get put off before you’ve even begun.
My top tip: There’s no shame in dismounting and pushing your bike over the pedestrian crossings at these major junctions until you feel surer of yourself.
As for my poor London geography – not any more. Since getting on two wheels, I reckon I’ve covered a pretty large swathe of London, from Rickmansworth to Richmond, from Leytonstone to Lewisham, from Bank to Blackhorse Road. But I know that there are still thousands of streets out there that I’ve not ridden down.
I've even ventured much further - all the way from London to Dover (see photographic evidence.)
One of the greatest pleasures of living in London is that there’s always something new to discover – often hidden near streets you’ve walked down a hundred times. A bicycle is one of the easiest ways to start seeing new things, start piecing together the jigsaw that is London.
You’ll see how it all connects, rather than knowing it as just a series of urban islands connected by tube stations. Although to be honest, I still always get lost at Old Street roundabout.
London stands at an important crossroads as it decides how its transport landscape will look in the next 20 years. Cycling has never been more popular, nor occupied a more central role in policymaking, but unless the Mayor stands firm in his commitment to cycling and puts the needs of the many above the needs of the privileged and powerful few who wish to oppose such projects as the cycling superhighways, we may look back at this time as a terrible missed opportunity. This is why organisations such as London Cycling Campaign are so vital.
I really believe that everyone should own a bicycle in London. Even if your commute is too far, the bicycle can be used for shorter trips- visiting friends, the supermarket, or simply for pleasure at the weekends.
It’s by far the most efficient way to get around the city. What’s more, it’ll keep you fit, save you money and you’ll arrive at work heart-pumping, blood-flowing and ready to go.
So come on, pump those pedals and join me in this most inclusive of clubs. See you on the road.
You can read more of Joshua's articles here.