Best cycle routes in London

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Richmond Park

Riding around Richmond park is delightful, it’s such a beautiful park and you really feel like you’re out in the country in the middle of London. Unfortunately it’s not car free, however cars have to drive really slowly and often have to stay behind you because the road is narrow and hard to pass on.

You can just carry on doing as many circuits as you like or could stop and see some of the sights on the way, such as the famous view through the trees to St Paul’s Cathedral.

The River Wandle

This is a great cycle that goes all the way down the Wandle from the Thames at Wandsworth up to Carshalton. It’s traffic free virtually all the way and there’s a wealth of interesting things to see. Some of the highlights are Morden Park, the river looks particularly lovely here, particularly as it flows through the water mill and  Carshalton which has a lovely park where you can recover before heading back.

The Regents Canal

The ride along The Regents Canal is a long and interesting one. Some of the highlights are Little Venice, Camden Lock, Victoria Park and the Olympic Park.

The River Lea

You can cycle all the way from the Thames at Limehouse out of London, passing on the way the Olympic Park, the old Big Breakfast house and ending up at Lea Valley Park. It’s totally flat and traffic free so a very pleasant and easy ride. In parts of the London ride you feel like you’re really in the country.

Parkland Walk

Parkland Walk is a disused railway line that once ran from Finsbury Park to Edgeware. The railway closed in 1970 and Parkland Walk was opened in 1984.
It is a nice flat ride and extremely leafy, you really could be in the countryside here.
Look out for the remnants of the platform of Crouch End Station.

When you get to Highgate the route stops and you could head up to the lovely Highgate woods or you could pick up the next part of the route on the road that heads up towards Muswell Hill and then takes you around to Ally Pally, another lovely spot for a rest and to enjoy the fine view of  London.

Hyde Park

Cycling in Hyde Park is quite restricted but the route that you can take is very enjoyable. I used to cycle there every day on my way to work. It’s a great feeling whizzing over the bridge over the Serpentine early in the morning and certainly beats traveling along the congested roads in the area. It’s also a pleasant place for a leisure cycle with lots of interesting views and places to visit such as the Pavilion,  and The Serpentine of course. You are also close to the Albert Hall which is truly beautiful both inside and out.

Crystal Palace to Alexandra Palace

This is a more difficult ride but a very interesting one with great views at both ends. Crystal Palace is one of the highest points in London so you might want to start not end here, unless you like climbing in which case it is probably the best climb to go up in London. From Crystal Palace which is a pleasant park and the site of the palace itself which was burnt down in 1936 (although there’s talk of it being rebuilt by a Malaysian businessman) you can to Sydenham Hill and some stunning views over London. There’s lot of routes you could take but one of them is to   head into town via Peckham and the Old Kent Rd ending up in Waterloo, then over the river and up towards Regents Park then Camden, Crouch End and finally an uphill stretch to Ally Pally.

Staying safe cycling in London

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There’s no doubt that cycling in London can be a risky business. Until we get segregated cycle lanes there will always be risks, all we can do is to try and minimize them.

Never go on the left-hand side of lorries

Most people who are killed in London, get killed by lorries who can’t see them, often when the lorries are turning left at a junction. So make sure that you never go on the left-hand side of a lorry and better still just don’t go anywhere near them at all.

Keep away from parked cars

A car door could open at any time, sending you flying so make sure to keep away from a parked car, at least a car door’s width.

Be visible especially at night

To be as safe as you can be as visible as you can. High-vis vests are a good idea, especially at night, and you should definitely make sure you have a decent pair of lights on at nights. Don’t scimp on buying a decent pair, a cheap pair won’t show a good light and will probably pack in soon anyway.

Wear the right clothing

Try not to wear any clothes that will flap around, wear a pair of cycling gloves that will give you good grip in all conditions and wear some decent cycling or exercise shoes if you can. You don’t want to wear any shoes that will slip on the pedals.

Be aware of your surroundings

Keep looking around you at all times, you need to be on the ball. Listening to music while you are riding is probably not a good idea because not only will you not be able to hear any warning signs, cars hooting etc but you could become distracted and lost in a world of your own.

Don’t be reckless

Don’t do stupid and reckless things. And try to avoid jumping red lights especially when it’s dangerous to yourself or others.

Don’t drink and drive

It’s tempting to cycle after having a few drinks, there’s little chance of getting caught, but it’s dangerous and you could easily end up in an accident with your reduced capabilities. You might also be tempted to take more risks.

Cycling around Trafalgar Square

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I was cycling in central London today and had the misfortune to go around Trafalgar Square. It’s certainly improved since the days when the square was totally cut off. It’s actually quite pleasant to walk from the National Gallery into the square itself, and almost feels like it could be a square abroad.

There’s even far less pigeons than there used to be, I think that London pest control have been busy getting rid of them. I heard that there was a permanent bird or prey handler employed to keep them away, although I haven’t seen any sign of that.

But it’s still a pretty unpleasant place for cyclists. The traffic is horrendous and there’s no decent cycle lanes. I wasn’t too surprised in this article that it is the second worst blackspot in London for accidents, beaten only by the Elephant and Castle. I know that the mayor’s office are planning to do something about Elephant and Castle and have dedicated cycle lanes there but I’ve heard nothing about Trafalgar Square. It would be great if the whole area could be left to pedestrians and cyclists and cars banished all together but I have a feeling that getting rid of them will not be as easy as getting rid of the pigeons seems to have been.