London, England, United Kingdom
London has seen a transformation in recent years from traffic clogged streets to many more cyclists on the road. With an increasing number of people cycling to work or to the shops the whole culture around cyclists has changed. Some of the most popular sights in London can be reached by cycling, making it a very practical and cost effective way to see this famous city.
Renting a bike in London is very easy and cyclists even get the first thirty minutes free of charge when using what has affectionately become known as a Boris Bike. These were introduced by the Mayor of London and are stationed all over the capital. Those wanting to rent one of these bikes can simply leave credit card details, so that longer periods of use can be charged, and ride off through the streets. These bikes can also be deposited at any of the docking stations that are all over London. Cycle hire is also available from a number of private companies in London and there are also some BMX tracks with hire facilities.
The London 2012 Olympics developments have seen huge investment in sports. One of the best developments for London has been the introduction of cycle super highways from the outer suburbs to the centre of London itself. These include cycle highways from Wandsworth to Westminster and Merton to the City of London. Greenways are trails in London that pass canals, woods, parks and other quieter areas in the city. A number of cycling maps with ideas for routes are available online and from tourism centres in London. London has a number of cycle clubs and making contact online before planning a cycling trip is a good way of getting to know about events and planned rides.
London has an extensive public transport network and accepts folded bikes only onto the system, with the exception of some of the suburban trains. Parking for bikes is also available at many of the train stations. Traffic can be heavy in parts of London and it is wise to consider a helmet and visibility clothing when cycling at night. Making sure a bike is secure when leaving it is another must do in London, as there are opportunistic thefts when bikes are left unlocked and unattended.
In London, there are a number of scenic bike rides that take in the major sights and attractions of the city. One of the more interesting rides is a 13 mile cycle from Greenwich to Woolwich along the River Thames. Taking in the naval historic sights of Greenwich over to the Woolwich Ferry and the past traces of docklands, the ride includes parts of the industrial past of this great city, finally cycling through to the dramatic skyline of Canary Wharf and back through the Greenwich Tunnel to see the Cutty Sark before the journey ends. Another good bike ride zigzags over ten bridges on the River Thames, at its best at dawn or dusk. This ride takes in some of the most iconic sights of London and includes a wonderful cycle along the Embankment past Tower Bridge, London Bridge, Southwark Bridge and takes in places of interest such as Tate Britain, before ending at Albert Bridge after a 10 mile ride. Another good cycle ride starts in the East End of London and ends in the more affluent West End of town, starting in London Fields and cycling through Hackney and close to the London 2012 Olympic Stadium. Passing Canonbury and Islington, the ride traverses Regents Park, where a stop at London Zoo is an option. Finally, the cycle ride ends in Portobello, site of the famous market and Notting Hill. For a very scenic and family orientated ride that takes around an hour, a cycle from Richmond to Hampton Court is a popular one. With plenty of pubs en route, there are a number of places to stop for a refreshing break or to have a picnic.
Taking a bicycle ride through London is a wonderful way of seeing a different side to this great city and, by getting to parts that are inaccessible by tour bus, there are opportunities to visit the parts of the city that the mass tourist market does not see.