I’d forgotten how much I love cycle commuting. In Dublin I lived a 5 minute walk from the office, 5 minutes that sometimes seemed far too long as I battled with my umbrella in torrential, horizontal rain. In London I’m a 45 minute cycle from work on the way in and 35 minutes on the way home…
I love the cycle to the first set of traffic lights, everything cold, my breath coming in thick puffs of smoke, legs turning, head waking up. I love joining the peloton on Clapham Road, legs pushing and pulling furiously on the pedals as I try to keep up. I love getting onto the segregated cycle-highway number CS3, head down, legs moving, powering myself to work, rewarded by the sun glinting off the river as I cycle east. I love it even when it’s pouring with rain and I cycle past in my waterproof over-shoes and fantastic waterproof jacket, water dripping from the top of my helmet but I am feeling smug and happy as commuters take part in that war with the umbrella, trying to protect their woollen suits from the rain.
I never want to get on my bike at the end of the day. It seems so dark outside the office, my eyes are closing from staring at a screen all day and really I just want to keep sitting down until I can fall asleep. Often I give into the temptation, make some excuse and just get the tube. I always regret it. For after the first five minutes, my legs get moving and there is no one else on the road. So few cars, two or three other cyclists, less red lights, fewer buses stopping. I fly home, clearing my mind of all the work-day stresses and when I come in the front door, I’m buzzing.
Cycling in London isn’t always great. The red circles around my route are the junctions that TFL deems dangerous enough to completely re-do – and I can’t wait for that! My journey in to work is ten minutes longer than my journey home as I won’t cycle right round Elephant & Castle roundabout and instead take the side-route. The peace of mind of not dicing with death / serious injury is worth getting up ten minutes earlier in the morning. Cycling through London often provides me with a great adrenaline rush – although one I wish I didn’t have to have. Buses are huge, and frankly, just scare me. Taxis don’t see you and pull over right in front of you with no signalling or warning. Drivers realise too late they are in the wrong lane and panic, changing lanes without looking. However, it’s invariably pedestrians that send my heart rate rising, crossing junctions when the red man is showing, looking down at their phones, looking one way across the street, stepping out and only then looking in my direction, dashing between buses without stopping to think that there may be a cycle lane the other side.Posing in my Rapha jersey (a Christmas present!)
But what annoy me the most, at least once without fail on every commute, are other cyclists. Obliviously cycling along with headphones in, zooming through red lights without even looking, so desperate to save five seconds that they will even jump off their bike, carry it up onto the pavement, across the junction and then jump right back on it, so keen to appear super-speedy that they will stand up on their pedals and accelerate past me at every set of lights, despite the fact I keep having to overtake them when they sit down again. What I have learnt is that no matter what method of transport you choose, a large proportion of you can be idiots. 🙂
But above all there is the wind in my helmet, the sweat on my face, the pounding of my heart and those perfect nights when the roads are empty, every light is green, and I sail home composing love letters like this in my head.