By Adrian Jewitt. Adrian is associate director of marketing and business development.
I cycle from Ealing to Clerkenwell 3 or 4 times a week. It’s about 12 miles each way, and I do it for fitness, to save money, and because it’s infinitely more fun than the tube. It actually saves me 15 minutes travel time too, although I have to faff around with showers and changes of clothes. But I’ve built a routine now, and it’s relatively painless.
Setting off on a bright summer morning is obviously the highlight: I wend my way through the back streets of Ealing, and over Ealing Common, avoiding traffic for the first 1.5 miles. Then it’s 3.5 miles along the bus lanes of Acton, and Shepherds Bush avoiding huge pot holes and buses cutting across you to the bus stops, surprisingly it feels safeish, because the cars do observe the painted lanes.
Then the fun starts. Shepherds Bush Green should be easy for bikes, but there’s no segregation, and the cars and buses jostle randomly across lanes. Lane discipline is non-existent around the big round about, but it’s still easier to attempt to paddle your way around the road than use the cycle path, because it’s not dedicated and the lights stop your progress.
The worst is yet to come: Holland Park Avenue is a narrow two way 4 lane road, with cars, lorries and buses all sitting across the multiple crossing points. And it’s an uphill, so it can get very hairy as you try to keep going, whilst avoiding a crash.
The highlight at the top of the hill makes it worthwhile. The route goes through Kensington Gardens, Hyde Park, and along the Mall, all on traffic free routes. You make good progress, and it’s full of ‘only in London ‘ moments: the first view of the London Eye and the Shard in the distance; the mist rising from the grass; Cavalry officers exercising horses; the phalanx of cyclists crossing Hyde Park Corner; and the guardsmen in the archway at Horse Guards Parade.
Occasionally I see the Queen or Ministers too: interestingly the Queen’s car will wait at red lights for pedestrians, but the Ministers’ motorcades have belligerent outriders who get very angry at Joe Public, while they clear the road for their masters.
The last stretch is also classic London: along the embankment from Trafalgar Square to Blackfriars. Here you start to see road traffic and pedestrians merging together, and sometimes I think it would do all of them good to have some form of training for respecting other road users: random strollers off the pavements into the paths of cyclists trying to match Bradley Wiggins’ Tour average pace.
I see all sorts of cyclists on my way in: Boris Bike tourists and businessmen; Brompton speedies; Tour de France Wannabees; Hoxton Fixies; personally I mix the MAMIL and practical commuter on my 20 year old Ridgeback. I’ve been doing this ride since 2006, and it’s become easier every year, as the mass of cyclist grows, and other road users become more cyclist-aware. But it could be easier and less intimidating, if more provision could be made for us, planned by people who cycle themselves.
But I start my working day full of endorphins, glowing from the shower, and feeling virtuous. How good is that?