Imagine exploring London on a bike! It may not be as natural a thought as it would be in Amsterdam, but be prepared to be surprised; biking has surged over the last few years in London as a safe and fun method of travel no only promoting fitness but also offering a free mode of transport and saving you plenty of pennies in due course.
Many Londoners and visitors alike have recently given up their traditional four wheels and are now biking in and out of town either using their own two wheels or maximising on the potential of the hugely popular “Barclay’s Cycle Hire” scheme, which is also known as the “Boris Bikes”. It almost appears that London has turned into a city where no ‘spare wheels’ are needed anymore and biking has become the way forward to move about.
The 2012 London Olympic Games have created a certain buzz about using more athletic ways to get from A to B in town, especially seeing that London is actually not as widespread as it may initially appear to visitors. When you consider that your typical cab and car movements attend to typically be rather restricted by the convoluted one-way-street systems of the West End, by the excessive abundance of roundabouts in outlying areas and, of course, by the peak-time traffic all over town (which can easily quadruple the amount of time you would ordinarily take to get to your destination) the benefits of bike travel become rather obvious.
This is the best time ever to ditch the gas-guzzlers and to hop on a bicycle to get around London; but don’t worry, you don’t have to bring your own bike with you. Especially devised for people on the go, there are black-and-blue “Boris Bikes” available for hire everywhere across London (coined thusly after London Mayor Boris Johnson, who first introduced the scheme). These two-wheelers can be picked up and then returned at any of the many dozens of docking stations, 24 hours a day. If your bike journey is shorter than 30 minutes, you can even get to use them at a daily flat fee as low as GBP 1 a day. The scheme is simple to use, very customer-friendly and can be managed online or with its dedicated phone app. But beware: if you lose the bike or accidentally have it damaged or stolen, you will be liable to pay up to GBP 300 to replace the damage.
You can use any debit or credit card at the many Barclay’s bike docking stations to hire your ‘Boris bike’ to travel all around London, which in terms of public transport option often times turns out to be the quickest way to get you around town. Suited and booted bankers use the bike scheme just as much as tourists in springtime and students running late for their classes. As London has become ever safer for bikers and pedestrians alike, there’s really no excuse to avoid exploring this highly convenient and easy option to get you around town while keeping healthy at the same time. You can find more information on: http://www.tfl.gov.uk/roadusers/cycling/14808.aspx
The Mayor’s office has committed itself to introducing dedicated bike lanes and “Cycle Superhighways” devised to allow commuters to get in and out of the suburbs of London swiftly and safely. The blue markings on the street indicate that these lanes are reserved for priority use by bikers only. The Cycle Superhighways are gradually turning into the biking arteries of the city, connecting East, South, West and soon North London to the city itself.
By 2015, the Mayor’s Office intends to have 15 Cycle Superhighways in place to ease bike travel and commutes around London, which are all marked by the letters “CS” and a number corresponding with your particular journey. These biking lanes are not only aimed at making bike travel into town easier but they also give you plenty of incentives to go out of the heart of London and explore some hidden gems on the outskirts of town. You can find additional information on: http://www.tfl.gov.uk/roadusers/cycling/11901.aspx
Please remember that your safety always comes first when you bike around London. Always wear a helmet and conduct yourself in accordance with the Highway Code! Reminders of the dangers of conducting yourself recklessly while biking are scattered all over London; family members of those who have suffered fatalities have left bikes painted in white paint at the major accident-prone spots of London; these eerie memorials are tolerated by the authorities because they actually deter reckless bikers and drivers alike. Quite a phenomenon in their own right, the so-called “ghost bikes” movement arrived in London from the US in the past few years, changing the cityscape little by little and making London a safer destination for all.
But ultimately, London is a bike-friendly city, embracing two-wheelers and their rights as part of everyone’s place in the city. So on your next journey to London, skip the car hire and remember to bring your bike helmet with you. It’s time to explore.