I had occasionally biked around London using their famous Boris Bikes (which should actually be called "Ken Bikes" since he's the Mayor that developed the idea, but hey), so I thought I knew the drill: lots of buses you'd want to avoid, drivers were mostly OK, it should be fun.
I kept saying to myself that I should get my own bike, but it took me almost two years of procrastination to finally make the move and do it.
And I got a foldable one--a Brompton. It took six weeks to be delivered because I wanted an specific colour AND three gears, and that wasn't any of the configurations they had in stock so... custom order it was.
When I took it home for the first time, I thought I'd be unable to walk the next day. Ahhh the pain! It's funny how little attention we pay to some things when we're pedestrians--that street that you walk without really caring too much about it has actually a bit of a slope. So try biking along that sustained slope when you're not trained, and your legs will notice.
If taking the bike home the first day had been exhausting, I was totally sure that I wasn't ready to bike to work, which was a longer way. So what I did was "training" around my neighbourhood on week-ends and some days that I'd work from home (so I'd get some fresh air!). It was also a great chance to practice lifting the folded bike downstairs, unfolding it, and after the ride, folding and lifting it up. I can do that quite fast now, but the first days it was a complete disaster! (Specially the first day--picture me googling "how to unfold a brompton bike" on the street).
Finally one day I thought: that's it, I'll bike to work tomorrow!
And I did it.
Of course I also got lost many times. London's streets are all but a grid, so it's hard to memorise the layout of where you want to go. I thought I'd be going on the right direction, only to find I had taken a wrong turn, 500 m after. Google Map's insistence on naming streets by their road names is not helpful either--e.g. "A302" instead of "Victoria Street". Street signs do not have the road name in them!
But how do I...?Something that is very confusing too is the mixture and discontinuity of bike lanes, paths and areas that connect to Bus/Taxi lanes, reserved parking and pedestrian pavements, and sometimes describe strange paths across round-abouts. The pattern for how the layout of a "bike lane" behaves is totally erratic and impossible to predict, so the only way to ride confidently is to have ridden that way before and learnt the weirdnesses. More often than not, the bike lane has so many discontinuities or is so full of parked vehicles on errands that it is just plain useless and so you have to resort to ride on the "normal" lanes. I feel really bad when doing this, but it's not my fault, rest-of-drivers.
A non-alternative would be to drive on the pavement, because:
a) you will have, or cause, an accident sooner than you expect b) people (including me) don't like having a bike on their space
So I don't do that. Also, if I have to share the space with pedestrians, as sometimes I have to because the cycle lanes are not continuous but force you to go across pedestrian spaces, I dismount and walk.
Despite all these obstacles, biking is SUPER FUN!I feel I'm getting so much better at everything (getting to control the bike, strengthening my muscles) and also I feel SUPER CHILL as I don't have to interact with slowly-walking tourists, which stress me out because I walk VERY FAST but they are adept to block the pavement by walking in groups. If you're a tourist, please don't do that--it's OK that you want to walk slowly because you're on holidays, but some people live and work here! So please leave us some room so we can circulate, okay? I'll love you and your consideration forever :D
ExplorationsPast week-end was one of those ultra rare week-ends in which I not only was in London, but also had NOTHING TO DO. Can you believe that? Sole having nothing to do? I couldn't, so I gave myself something to do: I went on an exploration quest around the neighbourhood and beyond. Explore places I hadn't been before! Go further! Of course I got lost again, but it was great. I saw things I hadn't seen before, and by virtue of having a folding bike, I could just bring it with me to a cafe where I had a break before continuing on my little adventure.
I might also try a suggestion from the Infinite Source of Good Ideas, AKA Max Ogden: he works from cafes, but he doesn't work from the same cafe ALL DAY. Instead, he works for a bit in one, then rides the bike to another one. And since I've recently rediscovered that working from cafes is fun too, I figured I should try this as it would combine two fun things!
Have fun, friends, have fun!