A Civilized & Wild Cycling Adventure

I’ve enjoyed writing about my cycling tours, in the UK and EU, but I took a little break from them, see the “About Steven” menu to learn more. I still cycle for several hours each week, and I still don’t own a car or any other engine. But these days, my cycling is more utilitarian, around London. Cycling in London leads to many surprises. The video below shows one from last summer.

Much of my current cycling is commuting to work, which is an hour of cycling each way. The map below shows my route.I started this blog to share sights and stories from my cycle-tours, on my folding touring-bike. One of those tours was over 1,000 miles, and others were a few hundred. All of those tours have been on my own, although I’ve always met great people. I’m going to start sharing a different kind cycling adventure. It’s not really a ‘cycle tour’, but it will show many miles and a landscape that’s wild and civilized. These blog posts will show sights and stories of cycling in London, from a Minnesotan perspective.

Many people have described London, since the city’s been around for about 2,000 years. After living here for 7 years, here’s how this Minnesotan-Cyclist describes it.

London defies description and order, particularly for Americans who grew up with streets in a grid pattern. Some of my friends over here lived on streets that started with a grid pattern. London slowly and consistently bends the grid, like plants in a forest bend a path. If you think the plant metaphor is too much, look for yourself. You can look at any map of London and see how few streets are straight.

If you’d like to have a look for yourself, here’s a view from my helmet-cam:

Another part that amazes my inner-American is that street names change, at random distances. Just to keep things interesting, some of the semi-straight streets have the same name for a few miles. Others will change names in about a half-mile or less. I don’t mean to sound critical. All those winding, name-changing streets create wonderfully diverse sights, but cycling any distance means you must be good with a GPS. I often leave my credit card behind, but I won’t leave home without my GPS, even for a 1 mile trip. After all, the name of the street could change a few times on that short trip.

My inner-American also gets amazed by the size of London streets. In general, streets in London are one or two ‘street-types’ smaller than American streets. By street-type, I mean that London will have a 4-lane street where the US has an 8-lane street. Similarly, London has a 2-lane street where the US has a 4-lane street. And to the surprise of Americans, London has many 1-lane streets, where the US would have a 2-lane street. Many of London’s 1-lane streets are actually, narrow, 2-lane streets, but cars are often parked on both sides. That makes the narrow 2-lane street into a 1-lane street. Like most Americans, I was surprised at 1-lane streets, but after seeing them on every cycle ride, they’ve become familiar.

Considering these congested streets, the number of cars in London is amazing, especially since there is so much mass-transit and gas prices around $10/gallon. But, that’s a topic for another blog entry. I will briefly describe the ‘non-car’ traffic. A common part of any commute is cycling around lumbering double-decker buses, aggressive black cabs, clumsy delivery trucks, and worst, pedestrians who are texting and wandering into the street. They don’t hear my bike, but they do hear my voice. I treat all with great care and have a great time cycling in London.

I’ll close by listing some blog entries I’m going to write about.

  • London’s folding cycle race, where the racers wear office clothing
  • Variety of architecture that spans centuries, from a single spot
  • Cozy pubs with amazing beer
  • Small neighborhoods that really are the heart of London
  • Many, many of the wonderful little sights that appear in London

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