The government are all about cycling these days. Boris obviously wants to turn London into a kind of Amsterdam, or possibly just Cambridge. Fair enough; cycling is healthy, green and, best of all, free. But unfortunately, until Boris’s dreams are realised, cycling in London is for the most part grim, unpleasant and (don’t lynch me) pretty dangerous.
And there are some nice parks to cycle around (Richmond being the favourite so far for me), but the trouble is that you have to cycle through grimness to get there, which isn’t so nice. Plus it’s rarely practical: how many people are lucky enough to have to cycle right through a park on their way to work? It’s hobby cycling only.
So the key is to find somewhere nice to cycle within London, and there are a few places where you don’t have to spend your time dodging pedestrians or getting side-swiped by cars.
Namely, the canal towpaths. Did you know that British Waterways opens hundreds of miles of canal paths to pedestrians and cyclists across the country? There are routes all the way through London and maps available of said routes at waterscape.com. These routes are generally quite quiet and picturesque, without the daily risk of death.
There is a certain code of conduct for cycling along the towpaths, presumably to stop people sailing merrily off into a canal or pushing pedestrians in – mostly very sensible things, like ‘don’t run people over’. But one very cute addition is the ‘Two Tings’ request: that you give a couple of rings of your bell to let people know you’re coming. So I suppose you have to get a bell? My bike hasn’t had a bell since my My Little Pony tricycle when I was five. But again, dead provincial and lovely; much more evocative of a peaceful town than a crazy, congested nightmare city.
Also, generally for Britain you have to get a (free) cycle permit to bike along canals, but that stipulation is lifted for London alone, I imagine to avoid a tidal wave of paperwork.
You’d be surprised at how many routes there are throughout London, so if you like the idea of biking around but were apprehensive about the traffic, it’s worth having a look at this site to see how much more pleasant your trip to work can be. Saving about a hundred quid a month ain’t bad either, and nor is scrapping your grudged trips to the gym.
For all routes, maps and suggestions of every kind, have a poke around: http://waterscape.com.