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Pedalling in London

Alison Pryor | Published on 9/20/2023

Pedalling in London



When your photo stream of European travel is full of palaces, medieval cities and cycling infrastructure you know you a are Bike North member! I’m one of a number Bike North foreign correspondents this season traveling in Europe about to meetup soon in Austria for a BN Tour. Doing my own travel beforehand it has been relatively easy do some impromptu day cycling in the places.

In London for a few days so this included hiring a Transport for London (TfL) Santander red bikes – which are solid serviceable 3 gear bikes (you won’t break any speed records) with adjustable seat height, has a front bag rack with a strap. Works on docking stations system, TfL maps (also google maps) show where the docking stations are and how many bikes are available at each station. They don’t have helmets, as they are not required in the UK, but I have mine with me as I will do a range of riding on my travels.


As a visitor it is one of the easiest versions of share bike / bike hire I have used so far, all docking station have the hire point , if you just want to hire the standard ones it is a simple credit card payment of £1.65 - a code number is printed out that allows you to unlock a bike (you don’t have signup for membership or download an app – these are only necessary if you want to hire an ebike version). Each additional 30mins is also £1.65 with the final amount is charged when you dock the bike at the end of your ride.   I could hire one 2 blocks away from my hotel and cycle from western side of London using cycle routes on low traffic & low speed backstreets and shared paths in some of the main parks then a long stretch of separated cycle lane on the Embankment Route all the way to the docklands in the east.



The route numbering system and directional signage made it easy to navigate. A hint is to trust the cycle planners / directional signs -rather than what you might think is more direct route – there is probably a good reason for the route recommendations (I would have saved myself a couple kms pedalling on very cobbled streets!). Where I wanted to go closer to some of the main attractions that have higher vehicular traffic flow intersections, I could just walk the bike for a block in that area (like Trafalgar square) then jump back on shortly after.   It was easy to docked the bike within 3 minutes walking the docklands museum I wanted to visit, and later have the option of taking out another bike or return on the Tube.

Having lived in the UK years ago and visited every 5 years or so I can see the difference a whole range of cycling advocacy, infrastructure and programs have made. While I’m sure there are route challenges (particularly on the routes in the wider suburbs), this is the first time visiting that I felt there was enough safety built in to just go pedalling about as part of my transport options. The congestion charge (which is an environmental and traffic management measure) particularly has changed private car usage in inner London –even more so in current financially constrained times. Making it more possible and pleasant to walk or cycle.

Alison Pryor

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