How commuting by bike in London has changed my life!
Whether you own your bike or use one of London’s bike hire schemes, commuting by bike in London is a great way to explore the city while getting some exercise on your way to university. It can also save you time and money, among other benefits!
1. Why would one want to cycle in London?!
These are common reactions and questions I have heard when mentioning I cycle to university:
“Oh my God, really?!”
“Isn’t it too dangerous? I mean, with so many cabs and buses pulling over without warning, cars overtaking recklessly, and pedestrians crossing the road on impulse, I think I would die!”
Well, these comments were actually my thoughts about cycling in London before I decided to give it a go. London is indeed a busy city with dense traffic, which means that as a road user, you need to pay attention to everything at all times. However, once you’re prepared to take up the challenge responsibly, cycling in London becomes easy-peasy! Here are the reasons why I enjoy cycling in London:
- It is cheap: I get unlimited one-hour rides by paying £90 for an annual Santander membership (students aged over 18 get a discount and don’t pay the regular £120 fee a year). My total transport expenses (including Santander membership and occasional Tube journeys) are around £500 a year. Commuting solely by the Tube would cost me over £1,000 a year. Dear bike, that’s a done deal!
- It can save you time (depending on your journey): personally, cycling to university is a few minutes faster than taking the Tube. If I get to choose between spending over half an hour standing in a jam-packed Tube train and just under half an hour pedalling out in the open, this is a no-brainer.
- It keeps you healthy: I like to start and end my uni day with some exercise! Before and after sitting all day, I find it so refreshing to be active during my commute. Daily rides benefit both my physical and mental health (although you may argue that I get to breathe polluted air in the middle of not-so-green vehicles). Also, it is an eco-friendly mode of transportation, so you’ll be doing the planet a favour.
- It enables you to discover the city: I get to cycle through Hyde Park on my way to university, which I find lovely. My campus on Regent Street is located in the heart of central London, so there’s always a nearby docking station to rent a bike from.
2. How does cycling work in London?
- If you don’t want to pay full price for a brand new bike – which you can find in shops such as Hackney Cycles – there are several options in London to buy more affordable bikes. Check for second-hand bike shops in your area, such as Camden Cycles, or visit second-hand websites, for example, Gumtree. As an alternative to having your own bike, London has several bike hire schemes available, such as Santander, Lime, or HumanForest. You can visit their websites to find out if you need to pay for each ride or if they offer membership options.
- More cycle lanes along the main roads make cycling safer as you don’t share the same lane with cars. If you’re new to the UK and not used to driving on the left, you may want to check out the Highway Code for rules on cycling. Here’s a link to the relevant UK government webpage
- If you’re cycling in central London, watch out for pedestrians who tend to cross the road even when the traffic light is red. They don’t even bother to check if there’s any traffic coming from the other side, so keep your eyes peeled and your hands on the brakes (and near the bell)! On the bright side, other cyclists, motorists, and taxi and bus drivers are usually pretty chill and don’t mind sharing the road with you, as long as you respect the rules too (this includes signalling and obeying traffic signs, please:)).
3. Handy tips
- Always cycle safely: although there is no legal requirement to wear a helmet while cycling, I would strongly recommend that you wear one – you never know. To me, it’s as important as fastening my seat belt when getting into a car. Additionally, I wear a hi-vis jacket at night (i.e. from 4:30 pm in winter!) and comfortable clothes.
- Remember to cycle at your own pace: don’t feel pressured to speed up if many cyclists overtake you (and don’t follow those who jump the red light: it is almost always red for a good reason, so just wait until it’s your turn to go). Remember, you’re not racing, you’re commuting – you can take it easy!
- Enjoy your ride! Once you start cycling, you may find it tough to go back to taking the Tube. Don’t forget to leave a comment on this post once you have tried it out! 😉
For more insights from international students studying at the University of Westminster and living in the heart of London, please visit International Student Blogs