This post is in collaboration with Decathlon.
It’s been two months since Doris came rollin’ into my life. Two months of navigating London on two wheels. Two months of learning how to be a cyclist in London. Cycling in London gets a lot of bad press, and concerns over cycling safety are one of the greatest barriers to people cycling in the city according the the Mayor’s office, but I thought I’d share how I’ve really found it.
The idea of heading out on busy urban roads is scary. There are lots of vehicles. Buses, trucks, moped, cars, other cyclists. Lots of street furniture. Lots of pedestrians. There’s a lot going on. Lots of potential to get spooked out. Lots of things that could happen. I remember the first time I cycled in London over 10 years ago, I was so spooked out I didn’t even contemplate cycling in the city for years afterwards. When I did start cycling again I made sure I was well prepared to deal with these challenges. I went to a workshop at a local cycling shop that focused on skills for cycling confidently in the city. I learnt how to cycle assertively, refreshed my understanding of my rights and responsibilities as a road user and brushed up on my road safety skills. It was an invaluable experience and really boosted my confidence, I came away feeling like maybe I could do this thing!
The first time I dipped my toe into city cycling the infrastructure in London was not what it is now. While the city has a long way to go, but compared to a decade ago provision for cyclists is so much better. My favourite discovery so far has been quietway routes. Quietways enable cyclists to travel through safe, less busy streets across the city. I LOVE THEM. I love how they wind their way through back streets, helping you explore your neighbourhood and get to know parts of the city you wouldn’t have discovered otherwise. While the cycle superhighway is great, it can also be crowded and a bit intimidating at rush hour (I see you people in lycra with focus in your eyes!), and the Quietways offer a very pleasant alternative. Seriously, nothing beats pootling along a tree lined street of sweet terraced houses. Finally I love how the Quietways connect parts of the city that the cycle superhighway doesn’t necessarily reach. London is big, not everyone lives right by a main road, Quietways help connect the dots. It t
I’ve raved about it before, but CityMapper has been a game changer for me when it comes to cycling in London. Planning safe routes to get you from A to B is an overwhelming prospect when you’re finding your feet as a cyclist and CityMapper takes the stress out of it, especially when you can set it to show you only the quietest route to your destination. It’s a real confidence boost.
There’s a theme here, confidence. That’s the thing I’ve learnt about cycling in London, it takes confidence. It takes confidence to share space with vehicles bigger than you. Confidence to take up space when there are vehicles bigger than you. Confidence is hearing the stories and knowing the risks but doing what you can to manage them. That’s what city cycling comes down to, risk management. Bad things do happen. There are accidents. There are other road users who aren’t going to think about you. But there are things you can do to manage the situation. Making sure people can see you - that means getting decked out in hi-viz, having good lights, learning how to anticipate and indicate. Protecting your head with a good quality helmet. Taking time to plan routes. Sticking to cycle lanes. Stopping for traffic lights. Know the highway code and follow it. No, not everyone around you will do the same, but you are putting yourself in the best possible position you can to stay safe and enjoy cycling in the city.
Finally, the tip that has stayed with me the most - there’s no shame in getting off your bike and walking if things look hairy. Got my Mum to thank for that one.
*Doris was kindly gifted to me by Decathlon, but all opinions are my own.