The number of commuters cycling in central London has reached an all-time high, with recent TFL data suggesting almost 1 in 4 vehicles in the capital right now is a bike. With cycle-friendly infrastructure continually improving through the city, there’s never been a better time to join the two-wheeled revolution.
Riding to work can seem very intimidating at first, and you’ll probably have lots of questions; “is it dangerous? Will I get sweaty? What about a helmet? Can I handle busy roads? Where can I store my bike?” – These are all very valid concerns and things you’ve probably never had to think about if you haven’t cycled before. But with a bit of preparation and the right tools, you will feel comfortable and confident commuting to work by bike in no time.
Take the back roads
One of the often-cited downsides of cycling in London is how busy the roads can get – especially at key commuting times. London is home to the most congested road in the UK: the road stretching through Kingsway/Strand/Fleet Street/Cannon Street. For many would-be cycling commuters, the perils of travelling through rush hour traffic alongside countless cars, vans and buses can be enough to make them opt for a car or train instead.
There are alternatives, though. The trick is to plan your route away from the busiest roads. London’s Cycle Superhighways, for example, are a simple way to speed through the city on dedicated bike paths. Similarly, TFL’s Quietways have become an integral part of the London cycle network. Both have recently been incorporated into this London cycle map, which is a must-see for the savvy London cycler.
Buying cycling equipment
Even if you commute to work by bike just one or two times a week, investing in high-quality cycling equipment is crucial. A comfortable, lightweight but strong cycle bag will keep your belongings secure. Bringing a change of clothes and attaching mudguards to the bike itself will help prevent your smart work attire from getting damaged. And, most importantly of all: bright lights, reflective clothing and a sturdy helmet are an absolute must to help keep you safe on the roads.
It is no secret that air pollution is a severe problem in London. Oxford Street, for example, is the most polluted square-mile area in the entirety of Europe. Many regular urban cyclists, therefore, use protective masks, which include filters that keep out particulate matter and gaseous pollutants from the air you breathe.
Even if you don’t have a protective cycling mask, it’s still not worth worrying too much about any potentially negative health impacts. This King’s College Study shows cyclists would need to keep going for 10 hours a day through central London before the negative air damage outweighed the positive exercise benefit of cycling, so rest assured that commuting by bike is benefiting your health.
Store your bike safely
Bikes are an easy target for thieves in London. In 2019, a total of 21,745 bikes were reported stolen in London. If your office doesn’t offer dedicated, off-street bike storage, you need to think carefully about how and where to lock up your bike. The ideal scenario is chaining it up somewhere you can see. If that’s not possible, somewhere public where passers-by would notice a thief with bolt cutters. Also, keep an eye out for CCTV cameras, as they can be a great deterrent for criminals.
Every bike-owner should register their bike (for free!). Bikeregister.com is the UK’s leading online bicycle registration initiative that is aimed at reducing bicycle theft.
Get your bike checked
We recommend that you get a ‘health check’ for your bike every year to make sure everything’s in good working order. In London, there are loads of opportunities to get this done for free. The police, Halfords and Lunar Cycles (to name just a few) all offer bike safety checks and services.