Forum home Commuter cycling forum Commuting general

Does London commuting = suicide?

GunnytronGunnytron Posts: 30
edited July 2011 in Commuting general
Hi all

I live in Tufnell Park (N19) and work in Clapham (SW8).

I am sick of the 45 min tube trip, the suns coming out and I want to get more fit so commuting is ideal. However, I do have concerns about the safety aspects of commuting in London. Especially as I will be travelling through central twice a day.

What are peoples experiences?

Perhaps I am just worrying about nothing.

Thanks for any advice.
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Posts

  • No, not suicide. Best part of the working day.
  • jamescojamesco Posts: 687
    Plenty of us do east-west or north-south commutes which mean going through the city twice a day. It's not ideal, but it does beat the alternatives.

    Riding in London is like getting into a bath: at first, it'll be a bit uncomfortable, but soon you'll get used to it.
  • chillingchilling Posts: 267
    With a bit of time you can usually find some quieter roads to use if you don't like the main arterial routes.

    To start with it'll all be pretty hectic but you soon get used to burning with/through the traffic. Just assume that everyone else you can see (that's everyone, pedestrians, other cyclists, drivers, dogs, helicopters etc) are idiots and about to do something stupid to endanger you. Remember that and you'll be half way there.

    We aren't blessed with SuperCycleways much up here in the North yet. Once you get across the river you are pretty much on the blue tarmac the whole way. There are plenty on here that come from Clapham way up to the City so you just need to find your route to the river and whatever bridge suit best.

    I'd probably head for the Angel and then Blackfriars, then through the Elephant and down the Clapham road (I think thats a blue route South of the river)
  • dondaredondare Posts: 2,113
    Over 30 years of cycling to work in London and I'm not dead yet.
    This post contains traces of nuts.
  • MichaelWMichaelW Posts: 2,226
    I found London to be much better for cycling than any of the M4 corridor towns.
    You need to arm yourself with The Knowledge.
    Pick your route with care and explore to find the best one. Carry an AtoZ at all times.
    Understand how various types of driver are trying to kill you so you can take precautions. The usually try the same old tricks so it becomes very predictable and therefore mostly safe. Dont make it easy for them by eg riding up the inside of a left-turning HGV or between a recently stopped taxi and the curb.
    Same goes for pedestrians but they are a bit less predictable.

    The real danger comes from unpredictable freak incidents or from multiple dangers stacking up against you.
    Don't rely on luck to keep you safe. This is a common tactic of those who blast through red lights without looking or over pedestrain crossings. In the end your luck wont hold.
  • GunnytronGunnytron Posts: 30
    Well so far your telling me what I want to hear which is nice.

    Having spent 99% of my travelling time on tubes some recommended routes would be appreciated. I did look on tur TFL site but they take you on some complex zig-zags.

    Thanks for all your replies.
  • joelsimjoelsim Posts: 7,552
    I first cycled in during a tube strike last summer. Stoke Newington to Fulham. I was absolutely shitting myself.

    It was fine.

    Actually, it was more than fine, it was thoroughly liberating and enjoyable. It took maybe 3 or 4 journeys to start feeling really confident and fit enough to do it and feel good at the destination, but well worth it.

    You then get on the tube and wish you were on your bike.
  • edhornbyedhornby Posts: 1,780
    I took the plunge a few years ago from bus to bike, the summer is a great time to start as you get into your stride without having to worry about the weather

    I found myself doing 5 days a week and thinking 'how long into the winter can I last??' not even the snow stops me now :-) it's great

    don't worry about point to point shortest - better to have a route that you can keep rolling and avoid stretches of repeating lights or turning across busy lanes

    do a sunday preview ride out and back with a cafe stop
    "I get paid to make other people suffer on my wheel, how good is that"
    --Jens Voight
  • PoacherPoacher Posts: 165
    My experience of London commuting is well out of date (Whetstone-East Finchley 1970-1, Streatham-Mitcham 1974-6, plus various forays into and around town), but I'm sure it can't have changed much. :D

    70-71 was on a fixie, 'cos i couldn't afford gears! :twisted:

    Just do it!
    Ceps, morelles, trompettes de mort. Breakfast of champignons.
  • raymondo60raymondo60 Posts: 735
    Don't be anything but aware of the extremely challenging conditions. If you are the type of person that can really concentrate, really focus and not take chances for the sake of a few seconds, then you can survive and prosper. Commuting in and around London is not something I would advise anyone to do, but if you can summon up the right mindset (and thousands upon thousands do) then its just the best way of travelling that you can imagine. Try the journey over a couple of weekends, so you know where you're going, then good luck and God Bless!
    Raymondo

    "Let's just all be really careful out there folks!"
  • tri-sexualtri-sexual Posts: 672
    commuting in london is fine,
    its the bike couriers that has a death wish
  • joelsimjoelsim Posts: 7,552
    Commuting in London is good fun.
  • andrewlwoodandrewlwood Posts: 224
    Go for it; be careful, cautious but confident, read cyclecraft and position yourself properly.
  • optimisticbikeroptimisticbiker Posts: 1,657
    Gunnytron wrote:
    Hi all

    I live in Tufnell Park (N19) and work in Clapham (SW8).

    I am sick of the 45 min tube trip, the suns coming out and I want to get more fit so commuting is ideal. However, I do have concerns about the safety aspects of commuting in London. Especially as I will be travelling through central twice a day.

    What are peoples experiences?

    Perhaps I am just worrying about nothing.

    Thanks for any advice.

    http://www.cyclestreet.net

    According to this site the fastest route (Tufnell Park Road to Bromwells Road) to is 8miles/52minutes and 'hostile', the quietest route is 9miles/65mins and 'quite quiet'

    thats on the 20km/h 'cruising' setting but thats a tad slower than reality in my experience (it says mine is 1hr19 but i regularly do it in 1hr03)
    Invacare Spectra Plus electric wheelchair, max speed 4mph :cry:
  • It's fine once you have a bit of experience and know the worst of what you're up against.

    Always shoulder-check if you change your line. Make every maneuver really obvious to other road users (signal and eye contact if possible). Keep an eye on the flow of traffic up ahead so you have plenty of time to avoid trouble. Don't be too defensive (e.g. don't allow buses to box you into the pavement). Try not to get lost :)
    Souped-Up Trek Hybrid ( Clipless & Skinnies - FCN 6 )

    Regularly humbled by the RP3LC, and the FG temptation is getting too much.
  • GunnytronGunnytron Posts: 30
    "hostile", nice terminology :)

    Once I sort myself a shiny bike I will try some Sunday runs.

    Just as a FYI my final destination is SW8 3HT.
  • nationnation Posts: 609
    I think OB meant to link http://www.cyclestreets.net/

    Cycle street (no "s") is a bike shop in York, apparently.

    EDIT: Also I tried putting in my commute, and it gives me the same route for all the options (fastest, balanced, quietest), all of which involve tackling the two busiest dual carriageway junctions between here and my workplace, and bizarrely deviating off the quietest, fastest, road on the route in favour of travelling a considerable extra distance by canal towpath.

    So, I'd take its route suggestions with a pinch of salt.
  • HeadhuunterHeadhuunter Posts: 6,494
    I really enjoy the daily chase through the traffic. As someone above said, it's the best part of the day and I'm often disappointed to arrive at my destination... On many routes, especially through central London, traffic is nose to tail anyway, so most of the journey you're filtering faster than the cars. I've been commuting since 2006 and in that time the number of other cyclists on the road has increased hugely and there certainly is safety in numbers, drivers are more aware of cyclists these days. Some key things to remember are:

    Show no fear, make space for yourself, don't ride in the gutter, if you feel safer riding a metre or so from the kerb consequently blocking traffic then so be it, you have as much rights to the road as car drivers. If you squeeze yourself into the gutter, cars and buses will try to squeeze past you and you will have no space for evasive action

    In my experience the greatest danger often comes from traffic turning through jams from the other direction ie you are travelling in one direction and a vehicle coming in the other wishes to turn right across your lane through a jam, car on your side lets turning car through, turning car tries to whizz through quickly so's not to inconvenience traffic and does not look out for cyclists still moving/filtering through...
    Do not write below this line. Office use only.
  • optimisticbikeroptimisticbiker Posts: 1,657
    nation wrote:
    I think OB meant to link http://www.cyclestreets.net/

    Cycle street (no "s") is a bike shop in York, apparently.

    EDIT: Also I tried putting in my commute, and it gives me the same route for all the options (fastest, balanced, quietest), all of which involve tackling the two busiest dual carriageway junctions between here and my workplace, and bizarrely deviating off the quietest, fastest, road on the route in favour of travelling a considerable extra distance by canal towpath.

    So, I'd take its route suggestions with a pinch of salt.
    I did and that was a cut n paste so weird... :roll:

    Yes, it does have some strange suggestions, but its not bad as a starter for 10... there's nothing like getting out there and trying a few routes to get it right tho...
    I really enjoy the daily chase through the traffic. As someone above said, it's the best part of the day and I'm often disappointed to arrive at my destination... On many routes, especially through central London, traffic is nose to tail anyway, so most of the journey you're filtering faster than the cars.
    +1 to this. In very heavy traffic I find filtering on the outside rather than the inside often easier and safer. Especially when the traffic is lorries/vans/buses you can't see through...
    Invacare Spectra Plus electric wheelchair, max speed 4mph :cry:
  • fathertedfatherted Posts: 199
    Just do it.
  • kieranbkieranb Posts: 1,674
    if you keep commuting through to the winter just make sure of the areas you might be cycling through in the dark. e.g. in summer my wife uses burgess park and the bike path in peckham rye but these are no-go areas in winter time. My route sticks to roads so stays unchanged.
  • hfidgenhfidgen Posts: 340
    MichaelW wrote:
    Understand how various types of driver are trying to kill you so you can take precautions. They usually try the same old tricks so it becomes very predictable and therefore mostly safe. Dont make it easy for them by eg riding up the inside of a left-turning HGV or between a recently stopped taxi and the curb.

    Same goes for pedestrians but they are a bit less predictable.

    The real danger comes from unpredictable freak incidents or from multiple dangers stacking up against you.

    Don't rely on luck to keep you safe. This is a common tactic of those who blast through red lights without looking or over pedestrain crossings. In the end your luck wont hold.

    So very true - after a while you develop a "spidey-sense" for the various situations. I'm regularly suprised to find I've automatically slowed down just as some git does something infront of me which would have otherwise taken me off. Can't rely on it though - don't want to tempt fate!
    FCN 4 - BMC CX02
  • SpudtooSpudtoo Posts: 1
    If there's one piece of advice I can give you - stay sharp! Sometimes I've not been 100% focussed on the traffic and come to realise that less than 100% concentration increases your risks enormously. If you're pissed, mega-stressed, thinking about other things - get off and walk!
  • GunnytronGunnytron Posts: 30
    Thanks for all the responses. Looks like this is one of the better forums.
  • _Brun__Brun_ Posts: 1,740
    I'm in Tufnell Park as well. Fortunately only commute as far south as Fitzrovia, being on the wrong side of the river scares the censored out of me.
  • EKE_38BPMEKE_38BPM Posts: 5,980
    raymondo60 wrote:
    ...Commuting in and around London is not something I would advise anyone to do...

    I would and often do.
    I don't think the OP should wait to get a new bike to start. This weather is bloody warm to be riding a bike, but better getting to work a bit sweaty from his own sweat than taking PT and getting to work sweaty from other people's sweat!

    Just get out there and ride on whatever bike you've got, until you get your shiny new drop barred fixie running 85". Brakeless.

    Cycling to and from work is often the best bit of the day. Even riding in snow has its charms!
    FCN 3: Raleigh Record Ace fixie-to be resurrected sometime in the future
    FCN 4: Planet X Schmaffenschmack 2- workhorse
    FCN 9: B Twin Vitamin - winter commuter/loan bike for trainees

    I'm hungry. I'm always hungry!
  • nationnation Posts: 609
    There's a guy at work that is just starting to commute by bike (he's got growing kids, so the time he has available to exercise is getting squeezed), and he has scared the censored out of himself the first couple of days of actual commuting.

    I told him to think back to his first driving lesson and how terrifying it was to venture out on to the roads among other drivers for the first time, and then to think how trivial a thing it is for him to do now.

    It is scary to venture onto the roads the first few times, which is why a lot of people don't stick with cycle commuting and why people so persistently suggest that the only way people will cycle in greater numbers is if they're walled off in dedicated lanes at walking pace. The truth is that it is precisely as terrifying learning to drive a car on the roads as it is learning to ride a bike on them, but there isn't as much social pressure to to stick with the latter.
  • richVSrichrichVSrich Posts: 527
    i love cycling to work (in london)!!

    often it is the best part of the day! :)

    don't be a d!ck on the roads (dont jump lights, etc), assume most people can be idiots, and remember you are on a bike and are still vulnerable ..

    enjoy yourself!
  • ESHER SHOREESHER SHORE Posts: 818
    watch out for pedestrians and other idiots (including "Boris Bike" Barclays Hire bikers) on bikes

    pedestrians often walk in front of cyclists because they cannot hear an engine noise, and assume the road is clear, or are so engaged in talking on the phone or checking their blackberry they step off the pavement without notice

    they tend to be much dangerous than the slower moving traffic!

    don't assume anyone will give way or actually follow the highway code, and keep a healthy sense of paranoia about other road users, it will stop you getting hurt ;)
    Call 01372 476 969 for more information on UK\'s leading freeride park - Esher Shore www.eshershore.com
  • joelsimjoelsim Posts: 7,552
    All good advice. There is no reason why it should be scary, as mentioned above just assume others are going to be idiots, don't take chances and you will be in control. Always have one though on expecting the unexpected. Just like driving a car, always be a couple of steps ahead, look at the car 3 cars in front rather than the car directly in front. Eye contact where you can etc etc.
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