Yesterday evening, I had the pleasure of attending my first ever Street Talks event (run by these clever cloggsies). The talk was about streets and their design and relevance in the 21st Century. The bit that everyone was particularly interested in was the way in which different kinds of road users can share the road successfully. It was a great talk, and despite the dry-sounding theme, it was fascinating and I’m really looking forward to the next one, especially once I’m used to cycling and have a slightly different perspective on the way I use roads.
I’m about to buy a bicycle in a few days (maybe a couple of weeks) and am reading and learning as much about cycling in London as possible before I take to the helm of a Boris bike on Sunday with Dawn. Truth be told, I am bricking it. The last time I rode a bike I was about 10 years old and it was in circles around my grandparents back garden. I’ve never been behind the wheel of a car (though I have been hit by one) and I generally take public transport or walk everywhere, including to my office in Central London from zone 6.
As a result of the distance away I live from my place of work, it costs me £193 a month to use a transport service that I am frustrated by on a daily basis. Today, the 8.10am train to Victoria was delayed by about 40 minutes due to signalling problems, the London Bridge 8.22am train had been cancelled, and the 8.39am train that I would usually take in to work had disappeared, flip knows where to. When I eventually got to Victoria, the 73 bus that I made a run for (in full view of the driver) left without me, and the next bus that I managed to get was stuck in traffic. I only got the bus from Victoria to Mayfair to make up for the lost time my delayed train had cost me, to find that it would have indeed been quicker to walk. I also had to sit next to a woman who, without any indication from me, decided to explain the levels of appropriateness of pissing on public transport. For the record: Kids = OK, homeless people and adults = Not OK. I assure you I did or said nothing to invite this conversation or topic and that she was sitting on a newspaper.
£193.00. One hundred and ninety three pounds. “Fuck-a-duck,” I thought this morning, “I could buy a decent second hand bike for less than that!” (which I am planning on doing).
As a result of my interest in taking up a new mode of transport, I’ve been reading London cycling blogs a lot, initially thinking that I’d find tips on where to buy a tweed suit and those things you clip onto spokes that look a bit like Pokemon characters or Bagpuss. But instead, I’ve discovered a few issues to think about in a way I hadn’t before:
- I’ve yet to meet a cyclist of whom I thought “Christ, they’re a bit thick.” This is just an observation, maybe I haven’t met that many cyclists. I know one who’s a bit of a knob but I wouldn’t call him stupid.
- TfL are not as good as they’d have you believe. Check out Crap Waltham Forest’s blog for general examples and this post on ibikelondon about the proposed speed limit increase on Blackfriars Bridge, despite someone getting knocked down there very recently. There’s also a hoo haa about building escalators at Elephant & Castle if they extend the Northern line towards Battersea. All this goes in complete opposition to campaigns like this, which seem to encourage cycling in the capital.
- Helmet’s are not as safe as I assumed they were. But some are very pretty.
- It’s ridiculously easy to steal a bike (links to YouTube), so make sure you invest in a decent lock or two.
- You’re statistically safer on a bike than on a horse. Though let’s face it, there are a fair few things safer than horse riding.
Over and out.