Lockdown has changed the way of life for millions of Londoners, especially the way we get around the city. With public transport reserved for essential journeys, many have turned to two wheels instead and the government is now investing millions into creating new cycle lanes to help people limit their use of tubes and buses. If you’ve decided you want to start cycling, here’s how to do it.
Cycling in London can be a daunting prospect, so if you’re a total newbie start with Boris Bike to get used to being on two wheels. It costs just £2 to hire one for 24 hours (for unlimited journeys under 30 mins – it’s an extra £2 per 30 mins for longer journeys) and you can search for your nearest docking station on the TfL website or app. If you’re ready to go out on your own you’ll need to get a few things in order before you set off, starting with a bike and a helmet.
There are a lot of bikes and a lot of brands on the market (and they’re not cheap) so definitely do your research. Obviously for city cycling you’ll want a road bike over a mountain bike but consider if you want one that folds, like a Brompton, so you can take them on other forms of transport easily, or if you want an electric bike, so you can go further with less effort. You can get second-hand bikes on the cheap (check they haven’t been stolen before you buy) if you want to dip your toe in before splashing out on a brand new model.
If you’re cycling after dark you need to have working lights and reflectors, and whilst helmets aren’t compulsory, it’s better to be safe than sorry. On that note, get yourself a bike lock too. Check out our cycling guide here for all the bits you need.
You’ve got all the gear, now it’s time to get the idea. It’s best to find somewhere that’s traffic-free for you to get used to being on your bike and being around other people, so hit one of the parks (check before you go as some aren’t currently allowing cyclists as part of the lockdown measures). You could even test the waters by cycling on some of the quieter roads around the parks to feel out the traffic and practice signalling.
Towpaths like the ones along the River Lea and Regent’s Canal, are also good for leisurely rides. Whilst there won’t be traffic, you will have to navigate runners and walkers on the narrow paths so don’t expect to be racing off. And you’ll need to keep your wits about you so that you don’t end up in the drink.
If you’re cycling on the road, it’s worth planning a route beforehand. There are Cycleways, large cycle lanes that traverse the city, but these can get busy with commuters and often run alongside major roads. It’s worth planning a route before you go, especially if you want to avoid busy areas, but you can also get phone clips for your handlebars so you can navigate using Google Maps or Komoot on the go.