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National Bike Week: The Colourful Array of London Cyclists


Hannah Bardsley

Mon, 10 Jun 2019 19:04 GMT

Happy National Bike Week for those in the UK. Aren’t cyclists funny creatures? Ever fancied joining them? Well here is the motivation you need to get you out there, peddling away.

Open up the garage, pull out your bike and wipe away the cobwebs. It’s time to get going. But before you get going you had better sort out those five different punctures. You’d forgotten about those hadn’t you? They were the whole reason you had put it away in the first place.

Oh, of course, you meant to fix it. But you didn’t. Oh, and you may want to grease the chain while you are at it, tighten the breaks, too. And now, finally, you are ready to go. Unfortunately, National Bike Week seems to have also coincided with a week of delightful summer rain. (It’s not delightful; frankly, it’s a little depressing.)

But exercise brings endorphins. So, pull on your rain coat, get a cover for your bike seat, (believe me you’ll want that) and head out for a cycle.

London is rife with cyclists. They zoom down the streets at a terrifying speed that comes from pairing the brute force of man with the machine. Clad in skin-tight lycra, head down to cut through wind resistance, they are hard not to notice. Except, that is, when they come rushing around the corner appearing like the flash out of nowhere, just when you thought it was safe to cross the road. Alright, so the pedestrian light was red; but there was no car and you are a true Londoner. You don’t let traffic lights tell you what to do, that is until you narrowly avoid becoming a tangle of metal, human and expanded polystyrene.

Largely, these cyclists are commuters, whizzing from their busy job in the City, or in London central, to their homes on the outskirts of London. Sounds like a long ride, yes? But honestly, it’s probably takes less time than catching the train, less money, too. And London is pretty devoid of hills, so it shouldn’t be too bad a journey. Unless, of course, it is sleeting down with rain.

Then there are the tourists. Oh, the tourists! You’ll see them sitting atop the Santander bikes, wobbling into traffic in a relaxed manner. They are never the ones who seem too worried, surprisingly, instead it’s the London cab driver who gives them a death glare, while they balance precariously close while waiting for the traffic light to turn green. Sometimes, they will even place a hand on a car to steady themselves. Needs as needs must I suppose, but to a Brit this does seem to be the height of rudeness.

Luckily you won’t find the tourists so much on the main road as you will see them meandering through Hyde Park. They travel from one bike stand to another, the savvier ones making sure to cash in on the offer of a 24 hours of riding for just two pounds, by returning the bike each hour and then taking it out again. Sometimes the system does exist to be beaten.

Then there is the casual local cyclist. You’ll recognise them from their vintage bike (rust not included) perhaps even a small to medium sized dog sitting in the basket. You’ll find this carefree bike rider in the more idyllic parts of London. Try Notting Hill, Hampstead or Greenwich. Everything feels a little slower in those areas, more like a village and, oh, is it peaceful?

Of course, this peaceful cyclist looks calm but just watch, the moment they put their bike down they become a barely concealed ball of stress. At any moment their bike could be stolen.

21,745 bikes were reported stolen in London last year. Which seems to be a horrifically high number, but really it is only 0.27 percent of the London population, so statistically…

The final cyclist that needs to be mentioned are the boys in my neighbourhood. They cycle round the family-friendly streets sometimes in a group, often on their own. Never in any particular rush.

They have quite a reputation, from the chalk graffiti in our local park that reads, Beware the boys on the bikes, they are thieves. (Comma not included.) To the old lady, Kath, who I met one evening; she was outside feeding frankfurter sausages and leftover sponge cake to the local foxes. She offered me these sage words of advice. “Watch out for those boys on bikes, they are up to no good.”

Oh well, at least they will be fully embracing National Bike Week.