Today I ventured out on my pushbike. Bought through the infinitely wise CycleScheme (explained by Pete Baker or Joe Waugh), and thus saving about £200, I was now ready to hit the road. Accordingly, at the weekend I took my first tremulous pedals onto the roads of Wood Green (riding around Noel Park doesn’t really count, and earns me the scorn of real cyclists) and mimbled up to the Post Office to collect my copy of Doreen Massey’s World City. I also ventured out in the evening to the shops on the High Road and Lymington Avenue, and that was it.
I was (rightly) informed that I should not try riding all the way into work yet, but to get used to the roads and traffic of London first, and thusly I formulated my scheme – I could start early (before the major traffic commenced) and go halfway, parking at the Finsbury Park Cycle Park. Perfect! However I forgot to set my alarm and am woken at 7:20am, far later than I’d planned. But! Still in plenty of time, so off I set, down the residential avenues of Noel Park, under the flyover, negotiate traffic at Turnpike Lane, whizz down Green Lanes (bus lanes are flipping great! Who knew?!) then cross over into Finsbury Park itself. I made the mistake of taking the slightly gravelly, slightly up hill path through the park.
I am unfit.
Once at the bottom, I ride up to the cycle park and… it’s all locked up. You need a swipe card to get in, and there was no one there to sell me one. Blinking brilliant. So, I set off, and aha! I can park it outside my old workplace, London Met on Holloway Road. Lots of people around, proper bike racks blah-de-blah. So I get there and… I’ve forgotten the key for the lock. I is a fool.
I’m left with no choice. I still have enough time, so it looks like I’m in for the long haul. I hadn’t planned adequately for this eventuality, so my mental map is hazy, but I’m off up through Barnsbury and down to Caledonian Road – a little hilly, but it’d be worse going that way on the way home… Over at Kings Cross and I’m flying. I’m not dying of exhaustion, I’m not super-overheating, I’m in the groove and the actual riding has come right back to me. I can work the gears now(!) and I’m used to the traffic, I can ride slowly without wobbling, I can weave between cars (when stationary – I’m not nuts), I can indicate, I even found opportunity to ding my bell…
The only thing that let me down was my navigational skills, I was shocked to learn. What should have been a fairly straightforward jaunt down Kings Cross Road then Rosebery Avenue turned into a twisty, windy trip around Clerkenwell and Smithfield, so I didn’t really go the most efficient route… With the stops and the detour, it took one hour, which I think is pretty good going. I felt great after, although as soon as I got off the bike to walk, my legs nearly gave out from under me.
So now I’m planning my route home – maybe Blackstock Road will suit me this time, we shall see. I’m really confident – I have to confess I did not expect to make it the whole way in without a lung collapsing, although I was fairly upbeat about my personal safety. Bus lanes and cycle lanes are really effective, and I felt totally safe the whole way. Good old London, we do some things right.
Cycling Links I found today…
TFL Journey Planner (you can set it for bikes only)
My route – judge for yourself.