Cycling in London has grown in popularity over the years. Especially during and since the lockdown with people looking for alternatives to public transport. However, many are still apprehensive about getting on the bike and navigating busy London roads. In this post, we share some ideas and places for cycling in the capital, whether you are a Londoner or a visitor to the city.
Battersea Park, our local
I’m going to start with Battersea Park since it is the nearest park to us. Battersea Park is ideal for new cyclists and children as it is traffic free (except for tiny sections where you have the entrances to the car parks). You can’t ride through the park, but you can ride around it. The distance around is just over 3 kilometers (about 2 miles).
I wouldn’t recommend cycling fast in Battersea, unless you are out at a very quiet time, as the loop round the park gets busy with dogs and children, pedestrians and runners. We have both had very close encounters with dogs that have suddenly run onto the road.
My most recent one was with a dachshund, and I was only a few centimeters away from hitting it. Had I been going any faster, I would not have been able to stop. I nearly made this little girl cry as, having managed to stop, I said, “For f*** sake, whose dog is this?”
The girl, who was riding one of the tricycles you can hire in the park, looked tearful when she said it was hers. I couldn’t really have a go at her, so I just advised her to keep her dog off the road in the future. I love dogs, but I’d actually like all dog owners to heed that advice. Some people ride fast around the park and likely would not have been able to stop in time.
Hyde Park – A Must When Cycling in London
Hyde Park is great for cycling. Especially if you are new to cycling in London. If you are visiting London or live too far to cycle all the way there, I would recommend getting there on the public transport (choose quiet times to travel and wear a mask) and then hiring a bike.
Those who follow me on Instagram, know that I am a regular user of Santander bikes. There are many docking stations around Hyde Park where you can pick up one of their bikes. There are other bike rental options like Lime and Jump, too. You can read more about the different options in this article from the Cyclist.
In Hyde Park you can ride your bike without worrying about the traffic, which makes it great for those who don’t wish to navigate the busy roads. I like doing the loop around the park, but there are other options, too. You can check out this map from TFL for more detail. The map also shows Santander docking stations, which is very handy.
By the way, I don’t get paid to mention Santander, I just think they are a great way to get around London. It’s cheap, too. £90 for a year’s membership or £2 a day as long as you don’t go over the half an hour time limit. You can get around that though, by docking the bike for a few minutes and then taking it out again. A little tip from seasoned users.
The Outer Circle of Regent’s Park
This is great for doing laps and working on your speed. There are only a couple of sets of traffic lights as you go round the loop, allowing you to get going properly. It is also quite flat, so great if you don’t fancy riding up hill too much.
Just like with Hyde Park, there are many docking stations for Santander bikes if you want to use them instead of your own bike. Unlike Hyde Park, however, you can only ride around the park and it is not traffic free.
The other thing that might put some people off riding around Regent’s Park, is that you get some extremely serious cyclists doing laps. It can be a bit intimidating when they swoosh past you. That said, it is still a pleasant ride and you get to see the giraffes in the London Zoo, too.
Richmond Park – come prepared to climb
This is one of our favourites as it offers more challenge that the others I have included. Whether you choose to go around Richmond clockwise or anti-clockwise, you have to do climbing. For us, that is great as we (meaning me) need hill training before next summer.
The first time I went to Richmond Park, I struggled to get to to the top. I came close to getting off the bike and walking it up, but somehow stayed on.
The climb is worth it: the view from the top across London is spectacular. Also, don’t let the idea of climbing put you off. Every time I have been to Richmond, there have been cyclists of various fitness levels tackling the climbs, some riding, some walking their bikes.
The view is definitely one bonus of cycling in Richmond Park. The others are spotting the deer, there are so many of them, and that the route around the park is mostly traffic free.
Just like in Regent’s Park, you get lots of very serious riders at Richmond, but somehow they seem less competitive and more accepting of slower cyclists than the Regent’s Park riders.
Cycling in London – Navigating The Roads
In London there is a push to get more people into cyclin and with that have come many improvements. You will find more and better cycle lanes in London now and many busy crossings and roundabouts, for example, the one next to Battersea Park and at Parliament Square, have specific lanes and lights for cyclists making them a lot safer.
There are also cycling routes across London that take you through quieter roads. However, I have noticed a problem with these routes, which is the signs: sometimes they disappear. You follow a route and then suddenly you find yourself at a crossroads with no more signs. I guess the routes are still a work in progress.
If you live in London, many boroughs are part of a scheme run by Peddle My Wheels. If you are not sure if cycling is for you, this scheme allows you to try before you buy. When you hire a bike, you get the full kit including a helmet, locks and lights. You can even have a cycle skills training session with one of their instructors when you rent a bike.
It is great to see improvements to cycling safety, but London (and the rest of the country), has a long way ahead to become as cycling friendly as many other European countries.
Until next time!
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