Whether you’ve commuted by bike for many years or you’re just starting out, here are five things that every cyclist will have experienced.
Monday - You get a puncture
You accidentally rode through some broken glass and one of your tyres got a puncture. Typically, it doesn’t happen on your way home on a Friday evening. No, it happens on a Monday morning - and you’ve forgotten your puncture repair kit.
You’re a mile from the nearest train station, two miles from home, and three miles from work. There’s no time to go home and repair the puncture, so you have to lock up at the nearest bike-parking area before taking public transport to work - but just for today!
Luckily, your phone is charged, so you email your boss to let him/her know that you’ll be a little late. After taking the packed tube to work, you can’t wait to get back on your bike tomorrow.
Tuesday - You discovered a beautiful new route
One of the joys of cycling in the capital is that you can explore new areas that you’d probably never know about if you only used public transport. Perhaps you found a picturesque nature reserve tucked between two busy roads, or a hidden woodland where you can hear the birds sing.
Most people are probably unaware that London has about 3,000 parks - and many of these have good-quality cycling routes, too. Sometimes, you can change part of your daily commute to a more scenic route in exchange for a few extra minutes of cycling time.
For example, commuting by bike from East Finchley to the St Pancras area would take about 35 minutes via the quickest route. However, amending your journey so that you cycle through part of Hampstead Heath will only add about 7 minutes to your cycling time - and you'll catch some fantastic views of London on your way to work.
Or, perhaps you work long hours and struggle to find the time to enjoy London. Maybe you take public transport from Clapham Junction to Bank and want to switch to cycling. In about 40 minutes, you'll cycle through beautiful Battersea Park. For the rest of the journey, you’ll cycle next to the river at least 80% of the time - so you'll also see many of London's most famous landmarks, like Big Ben, the London Eye and Somerset House. An ordinary commute upgraded to a grand tour of London!
Wednesday - Beware the aggressive motorist
Sure, you can’t cycle through parks for all of your commuting journey - you’ll have to face the road at some point.
While it seems most drivers in the UK are polite and respectful of cyclists, sadly there are too many that treat them badly. Research from the City of Westminster Council has indicated that the majority of driver-cyclist crashes were the motorist's fault – and over 20 percent of all collisions were caused by a driver not looking properly.
It’s unlikely this will surprise you. Perhaps you’ve encountered a motorist pulling out of their driveway without warning, or another overtaking you and driving far too close to your bike. Again, it’s tempting to react in these situations, but (like most considerate cyclists) you probably let it all pass because you don’t want the hassle.
Thursday - Road congestion keeps getting worse
Congestion. The woes of every commuter - and today you find it especially bad. For cyclists, it’s a nuisance – but it probably isn’t quite as bad as the type of congestion you might get on public transport.
Why? Well, imagine if you get caught in a traffic jam. Unlike your fellow motorists, you can just get off the road and walk your bike along the pavement. Unlike a rail passenger stuck on a train, you can switch to an alternative route so you don’t end up late for work.
According to the TomTom Traffic Index, the morning peak and evening peak rush hours result in 64% and 68% additional travel time respectively (compared with off-peak travel). Unsurprisingly, the busiest hours are 8am to 9am and 5pm to 6pm for every week day, so it’s a good idea to avoid these times if your employer offers flexitime.
Friday – You notice more people cycling to work than ever before
More of your colleagues or London-based friends or relatives may be switching to cycling for their daily commute – but this trend might not be so apparent elsewhere in the country.
The stats back this up: In 2016, a league table from the Centre for Cities found that London had the greatest percentage of residents shifting to cycling for their commute (of all UK cities and major towns).
One explanation could be the huge investment in cycling infrastructure in the city in recent years. For example, the new Cycle Superhighways - which now include eight routes - provide commuters with safer and faster journeys into the heart of the capital. from outer-lying areas.
These Superhighways include bike-only lanes, so you can still keep moving even when your fellow motorists are at a stand still. The finished routes (as of 2018) are:
CS1 - The A10 between Tottenham and Liverpool Street
CS2 - The A118 and A111 between Stratford and Aldgate
CS3 - The A13, A1202, A3211, Hyde Park, A402 and A4209 between Barking and Tower Hill
CS4 - The East-West Supercycle Highway between Lancaster Gate and Tower Hill
CS5 - The A202 between Oval and Pimlico
CS6 - The North-South Cycle Superhighway between Elephant & Castle and Kings Cross
CS7 - The A24 and A3 between Merton and City
CS8 - The A3 and A3205 between Wandsworth and Westminster
The introduction of the Santander Cycle hire scheme and the employer-led Cycle To Work initiative have also helped to boost public awareness of cycling as an alternative to public transport.
However, there’s still more work to be done. While about 25 million people in the country own a bike, less than 20 percent cycle at least once every week. To help reduce pollution and congestion, encouraging more people to cycle in London is much more than just a good idea: it’s essential.