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Cycling in London - You lot must be mental

HebdenBikerHebdenBiker Posts: 787
edited September 2011 in Commuting chat
First of all, I should say that I lived in London for many years so even though I'm a Northerner, I have no prejudices about the place. In fact, I loved it, although I never cycled when I lived there.

BUT the other week I rode my bike in London for the first time, to get from Stanmore station (where I'd parked the car) to the start of the Dunwich Dynamo. I am an experienced and confident cyclist, but I wasn't quite prepared for what happened next.

FIrstly, I was hit on a roundabout by some aggressive pr!ck in a Mercedes. Fortunately he didn't knock me off, but seemed to want a fight about it. Then I was squeezed into the kerb on a bend by some old duffer... in a Mercedes. I witnessed two posh women in Hampstead arguing over a parking space. Riding back from the West End the next day, I was cut up in the bus lane by someone...in a Mercedes, who gave me the finger when I shouted "Oi!". I was cut up by a bus who passed me then immediately pulled into a bus stop. I was even abused by another cyclist who shouted to me "show off" for some reason. Even though I stopped at every red light, I can appreciate the temptation to jump them if you actually want to get anywhere. There are so many bloody traffic lights. I stopped briefly in Maida Vale to take my waterproof off and witnessed two drivers at a crossroads having a shouting match.

I enjoyed the ride but I was almost glad to get back to Stanmore and put the bike in the back of my... Mercedes :wink:

BUT: I stopped a few times on each leg to check my A-Z, and each time someone walked up to me and asked me if I needed help. One Jewish guy in Hampstead really went out of his way to help me out and took time to explain the best way to get to Hackney. I chatted to some Russians in the West End who were interested in my bike and where I'd been. People say that Londoners are unfriendly, but I've always found the opposite to be the case. SO what is it about London that turns reasonable, friendly people into raging maniacs when they're behind the wheel?

Those of you who commute daily through London, I salute you. And you need your heads testing. :)
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  • clarkey catclarkey cat Posts: 3,641
    somewhat counter-intuitively I find the safest way to get around town is with headphones on. If I was craning my neck around seeing if every beep and profanity was directed at me I'd be under a bus in no time. I just let Stevie Nicks get me home safely.
  • I just let Stevie Nicks get me home safely.

    So you go your own way?
  • rick_chaseyrick_chasey Posts: 60,997 Lives Here

    BUT: I stopped a few times on each leg to check my A-Z, and each time someone walked up to me and asked me if I needed help. One Jewish guy in Hampstead really went out of his way to help me out and took time to explain the best way to get to Hackney. I chatted to some Russians in the West End who were interested in my bike and where I'd been. People say that Londoners are unfriendly, but I've always found the opposite to be the case. SO what is it about London that turns reasonable, friendly people into raging maniacs when they're behind the wheel?

    Those of you who commute daily through London, I salute you. And you need your heads testing. :)

    You'll soon realise everyone in London has an opinion on how to get somewhere. It's almost like a rite of passage if you want to feel you are part of London.

    I genuinely got my boss really angry for taking a tube route which was more convenient home (after a night out) rather than his 'fastest' route.
  • asprillaasprilla Posts: 8,440
    I genuinely got my boss really angry for taking a tube route which was more convenient home (after a night out) rather than his 'fastest' route.

    My wife and I have been known to take different routes back to Waterloo when out in London; she always goes with the least stations and I with the least interchanges.
    Mud - Genesis Vapour CCX
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  • SketchleySketchley Posts: 4,235
    Asprilla wrote:
    I genuinely got my boss really angry for taking a tube route which was more convenient home (after a night out) rather than his 'fastest' route.

    My wife and I have been known to take different routes back to Waterloo when out in London; she always goes with the least stations and I with the least interchanges.

    Your wife and my wife would get on well. Maybe we should send them off shopping together and go for a beer.

    p.s. Who normally wins you or her?
    --
    Chris

    Genesis Equilibrium - FCN 3/4/5
  • CraggersCraggers Posts: 185
    You get used to it mate... when I first started commuting in london I wanted to physically harm every censored /dangerous driver/rider I came across and ended up getting to work (and home) wound up and stressed out.

    Now I just don my mask of zen and ignore everyone and everything... remembering that everyone else on the road is an idiot. Much better for the soul!
  • asprillaasprilla Posts: 8,440
    Sketchley wrote:
    Asprilla wrote:
    I genuinely got my boss really angry for taking a tube route which was more convenient home (after a night out) rather than his 'fastest' route.

    My wife and I have been known to take different routes back to Waterloo when out in London; she always goes with the least stations and I with the least interchanges.

    Your wife and my wife would get on well. Maybe we should send them off shopping together and go for a beer.

    p.s. Who normally wins you or her?

    Depends what your definition of 'win' is. She usually gets there first, but I had to get out of my seat less frequently and do much less walking.

    Priorities and all that. She's one of these folks who has to be moving and will actually go on a massive detour to avoid a traffic jam, even if sitting in the jam is quicker than the detour. I'm much more relaxed than that.
    Mud - Genesis Vapour CCX
    Race - Fuji Norcom Straight
    Sun - Cervelo R3
    Winter / Commute - Dolan ADX
  • clarkey catclarkey cat Posts: 3,641
    Heh - I do that, the detour, thing. If I'm in a queue I experience actual physical pain, blurred vision and palpitations.
  • jds_1981jds_1981 Posts: 1,858
    Craggers wrote:
    You get used to it mate... when I first started commuting in london I wanted to physically harm every censored /dangerous driver/rider I came across and ended up getting to work (and home) wound up and stressed out.

    Now I just don my mask of zen and ignore everyone and everything... remembering that everyone else on the road is an idiot. Much better for the soul!

    Despite generally being timid, I've realised over the past few months that I actually enjoy the occasional shouting match with a driver (always being right helps too ;))

    Just this morning a driver behind me (in a queue three cars long) did the old 'lights have changed, one missisissisipi, two missisissisisipi, still not moving pip the horn' thing so I turned round, arms open, mouthed 'what' at him & he got into a huff over it. He accelerated to beside me (road we join becomes three lanes) & started shouting. I had a nice little shout back, then after about five seconds he joined the end of the next queue so I left him to it....
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  • I have just started commuting into work - have done 4 trips so far 12 miles from SW to central London and althogh I have already had a couple of hairy moments it has not been nearly as bad as I feared. There are lots of drivers who seem to be quite deliberately conscious of not getting in your way.

    I find the worst part of the commute is being stuck in stop-start traffic where it is not really possible to filter through. South of Putney Bridge is the worst. Any tips on negotiating that?
  • I have just started commuting into work - have done 4 trips so far 12 miles from SW to central London and althogh I have already had a couple of hairy moments it has not been nearly as bad as I feared. There are lots of drivers who seem to be quite deliberately conscious of not getting in your way.

    I find the worst part of the commute is being stuck in stop-start traffic where it is not really possible to filter through. South of Putney Bridge is the worst. Any tips on negotiating that?

    There are cycle routes around putney that take you away from the busiest roads - have a look at the tfl travel planner and ask for a cycle route. It'll probably give you a fiendishly complicated route of 9 pages long but you'll get a look at the cunning back roads that are quiet.
  • I have just started commuting into work - have done 4 trips so far 12 miles from SW to central London and althogh I have already had a couple of hairy moments it has not been nearly as bad as I feared. There are lots of drivers who seem to be quite deliberately conscious of not getting in your way.

    I find the worst part of the commute is being stuck in stop-start traffic where it is not really possible to filter through. South of Putney Bridge is the worst. Any tips on negotiating that?

    There are cycle routes around putney that take you away from the busiest roads - have a look at the tfl travel planner and ask for a cycle route. It'll probably give you a fiendishly complicated route of 9 pages long but you'll get a look at the cunning back roads that are quiet.

    Thanks. I will have a look. Although coming flying down Putney hill when the bus lane is clear is a perk I would not give up too easily. :D
  • joelsimjoelsim Posts: 7,552
    I just let Stevie Nicks get me home safely.

    So you go your own way?

    Surely it's The Chain.
  • joelsimjoelsim Posts: 7,552
    I love cycling in London, much more fun than in Cobham.
  • Paul EPaul E Posts: 2,052
    I am mental
  • Apart from professional drivers who have no choice , nobody in their right minds would drive in London. This gives you a survival clue: they're either competent professionals or not in their right minds. As you can't always be sure of the former, assume the latter.
  • InitialisedInitialised Posts: 3,047
    As a reformed Londoner who used a bike as primary transport turrets in the late nineties I can honestly say it is by far the best way to get around the city and we're not all homicidal maniacs. Also driving and riding around the capital teaches you skills an maneuvers that will help you speed through traffic in less densely populated provinces It does however lack the thrill of a 2am dash along the embankment.
    I used to just ride my bike to work but now I find myself going out looking for bigger and bigger hills.
  • iPeteiPete Posts: 6,076
    I love cycling in London.

    Pros:
      The rush of dicing and riding with the pace of traffic Loads of other cyclists No mounds covered in earth aka hills Its like constant interval training

    Cons:
      Vehicles try to run you over Loads of cyclists with no road sense Its flat Its like constant interval training

    :lol:

    I actually get more worried on country lanes and empty A roads with bigger closing speeds. London is only scary if you have no patience, always push to the front, undertake everything you can and stop for nothing IMO.
  • graham.graham. Posts: 862
    I was in London on Tuesday to spend the day wandering around with a camera, (see Flickr link if your interested :wink: ).
    I was gratified to see just how many cyclists of all varieties there are, and I have to say I take my hat off to the lot of you, I would have been just a little bit terified on those roads (I'm from Derby you see.).
    I was making my way to the Tate Gallery and stumbled on a fine looking pub called The Morpeth, which I believe is some sort of Mecca of cycle commuters. Out off a sense of com'radery I went in and toasted your health.
    That is all. Graham. :D

    Oh and with regards to the OP's final comment about the helpfulness of strangers, I'd just left the Tate when a young lady came up to me and asked if I knew how to get to Pimlico Library, it was'nt on my map so I couldn't help, but some old chap came up with a "Where you lookin' for darlin'" and pointed her in the right direction. A simple thing, but I found it quite wonderful.
  • t4tomot4tomo Posts: 2,643
    somewhat counter-intuitively I find the safest way to get around town is with headphones on. If I was craning my neck around seeing if every beep and profanity was directed at me I'd be under a bus in no time. I just let Stevie Nicks get me home safely.

    You've either been lucky or oblivious to the danger. Depriving yourself of one of your senses is madness. Still a least you'll have some nice easy listening as you whizz your way to an early grave. :D
    Bianchi Infinito CV
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  • You've either been lucky or oblivious to the danger. Depriving yourself of one of your senses is madness. Still a least you'll have some nice easy listening as you whizz your way to an early grave.

    listening to music on open-ear headphones impairs my hearing about as much as wearing sunglasses impairs my vision. I can still hear all the beeps, revs, shouts, squeals and hollers on my commute - they are just subdued, man.
  • iPeteiPete Posts: 6,076
    What he said!

    I'd rather listen to music in one ear than the constant sound of the wind. Never missed approaching sirens, cars, beeps, shouts, wolf whistles (made that one up) and hell, even shoulder check MORE with music and prevents the onset of monotony, far more dangerous.
  • notsobluenotsoblue Posts: 5,838
    t4tomo wrote:
    somewhat counter-intuitively I find the safest way to get around town is with headphones on. If I was craning my neck around seeing if every beep and profanity was directed at me I'd be under a bus in no time. I just let Stevie Nicks get me home safely.

    You've either been lucky or oblivious to the danger. Depriving yourself of one of your senses is madness. Still a least you'll have some nice easy listening as you whizz your way to an early grave. :D

    With all due respect, thats BS ;) I wear over ear open headphones and I can hear traffic noises just fine. I can hear a gearchange from someone coming from someone drafting me, and I can hear people muttering quiet criticisms about me wearing headphones when I'm stopped at traffic lights. :P
  • NSB - they're probably just criticising your singing if you're anything like me.
  • notsobluenotsoblue Posts: 5,838
    And another thing.... why do people think its worse to wear headphones when you're cycling than it is to wear a full motorcycle helmet (that often has audio too). Its almost as if simply using a motorised vehicle makes you safer.
  • notsobluenotsoblue Posts: 5,838
    NSB - they're probably just criticising your singing if you're anything like me.

    I think PCSO's should be able to issue on-the-spot fines for falsettos like that.
  • I must admit, I've had a few hairy moments when in an engrossing chapter on my handlebar mounted Kindle but listening to music has never been a problem.
  • squiredsquired Posts: 1,153
    Having commuted in London for over 10 years, but also had a spell of commuting to the countryside for two years, I'd take the latter any day. For me it is hard to beat the feeling of cycling along with fields either side of you and no need to stop, versus packed roads where you are stopping every hundred metres. I still "enjoy" cycling in London, but my ride feels more as my commute. When I was riding away from London it felt more like I was just going for a cycle ride.

    It is impressive though seeing how many people cycle in London. If train fares really do increase by over 10% at the end of the year I am expecting to see even more on the roads by this time next year.
  • notsobluenotsoblue Posts: 5,838
    I must admit, I've had a few hairy moments when in an engrossing chapter on my handlebar mounted Kindle but listening to music has never been a problem.

    My accident record improved markedly when The Guardian went Berliner.
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