London may be famous for its Underground and iconically decked out red buses, but for those in the know the best way to see the fabulous jewel of a city that is London isn’t by walking, isn’t by public transport or black cab, it’s via a bike. However, before you jump onto that Boris Bike and go on your jollies there are some important things to know about cycling in a city that may be becoming increasingly cycle-friendly, but still has a long way to go. There is an average of around 18 cycling deaths per annum in London and this doesn’t count the hundreds of serious injuries, and thousand of accidents that happen in the city every year. Don’t despair though – at BUCKiTDREAM we’re going to help you get the most out of cycling in the city and show you how to see London in a truly magnificent new light.
The Best Cycle Routes In London
Before we get into the more mundane nitty-gritty of cycling in London, we’re going to let you know our favorite routes. We’ve got rides that will take you past the best-known tourist attractions and some of our favorite hidden gems along the way.
The Classic Tourist Route
Start Natural History Museum
End Tate Modern
Time 60mins with no stops – two days if you stop at every one!
Stops – Natural History Museum & V&A, through Alexandra Road to Hyde Park, past the Albert Memorial – Serpentine Gallery – Hyde Park Corner – Buckingham Palace – Queen Victoria Memorial – Westminster (Big Ben) – 10 Downing Street – Trafalgar Square – St Paul’s Cathedral – Tower Bridge – Tower of London – London Dungeon – Borough Market & Finally the Tate Modern
It seems like an impossibly long trip but on this lovely and only moderately difficult cycle journey you can tick off almost every crucial London tourist hotspot on your trip. We’d recommend doing it without stopping as a whirlwind introduction to the city – that way you can pick and choose the places you want to see the most and head back with more time. Please do be careful around Westminster & Trafalgar Sq roundabouts, though, as they can be overwhelming.
A Different Side To the City
End Drury Lane
Time 30 mins at a casual pace
If this isn’t your first trip to London, you might want to get out there and see something completely different. Santander cycles, which we’ll go into in more detail about later, have put together a great little route for seeing the quirky side of London. You’ll start near Tower Bridge and be whisked on an adventure through a graveyard for prostitutes and paupers, London’s oldest church and the Statue of the Golden Boy, which marks where the Great Fire of London ended. After that you can pop into the Hunterian Museum, which is full of odd displays of anatomical specimens. You’ll finish near Drury Lane packed with color and adorned with cool cafes and coffee shops, where you’re guaranteed not to find any other tourists.
Know What You’ll Be Riding
If you’re cycling in London and you’re a tourist you’ll most likely be using a Santander Cycle, formerly known as a Boris Bike after the former mayor Boris Johnson. The bikes, like the mayor, have been upgraded – but they’re still not great. They’re heavy, cumbersome and come with an awkward little basket which isn’t quite big enough to fit anything useful in it. However, beggars can’t be choosers and for the very reasonable rental price of £2 per day you can access the bikes. This is IMPORTANT though, and it’s a mistake that tourists make far too often: that £2 only buys you a free half an hour per stop. You can check bikes in and take them out as you wish (with a 5-minute wait between dock & removal) but each additional half an hour after checkout you’ll be charged an extra £2. If you lose it, it’ll be £300 and if you keep it overnight it’ll continue to be £2 per hour until you reach that awful £300 threshold! So while it may be good value for money, beware of the excess usage charges and for God’s sake don’t take it home with you.
Know Your Apps
Google Maps is a must and offers cycling directions that (for the most part) keep you out of harm’s way and around the city’s safer cycle paths. It’s free and works well for London newbies.
You also need the Santander Cycle App which will save you so much time and hassle when it comes to checking bikes out. This app has unfortunately been notoriously buggy in the past, but due to a recent update appears to be working much better. It provides directions to your nearest cycle docking station and allows you to check bikes out in a matter of seconds without having to deal with the lagging machines.
If you want to track your journeys, make sure that you use Strava as it will show you how far you traveled and where you’ve been.
Most importantly, don’t forget to use BUCKiTDREAM to update all your friends and followers on your cycling adventures through the city.
Know Your Route
We can’t stress this enough – whether you’re using GPS or going old school with a map, make sure you know your route. London has some beautiful quiet streets with excellent cycling lanes, but one wrong turn could take you onto a freeway (motorway) or a road that’s so busy it’ll feel like sheer insanity. Plan ahead, and don’t be afraid to ask the locals if you get lost. Most of the time they’re perfectly pleasant and happy to help.
Some Quick Tips & Tricks
- Please don’t drink excessively and cycle in London. The reason is obvious.
- Use a helmet if possible, but if you can’t pick one then stick to the cycling paths across the city and avoid the main roads.
- If you’re visiting the UK, make sure to know what side of the road to cycle on. It’s the left, FYI – make sure to stay on the left. This includes learning basic road rules and signs before you go, especially the functionality of roundabouts.
- Wear appropriate clothing – you should wear form-fitting clothes and avoid loose trousers or dresses that can get caught in gears.
- Finally, just be safe.
Places You Really Need To Avoid
Based on regular accidents and the difficulty of cycling around these areas, only take these spots on if you’re an advanced city cycler.
- Elephant & Castle roundabout
- Trafalgar Square (you can walk through the middle)
- Waterloo Road Roundabout
- Lambeth Bridge
- Vauxhall Bridge Road
Cycling in London will change the way that you see the city. You’ll get to see nooks and crannies reserved for the locals and explore the areas that make the city one of the most popular tourist locations on earth. Make sure to take a lot of photos, update your fellow BUCKiTDREAMERS and share the pictures across all your social networks. Most importantly, be smart, be careful, be safe and have fun!