I'm now 100% a cycling commuter. It won't be long before I can cycle five days a week, which will take my cycling miles up to a whopping 90 a week! That's not bad. Of course, it'll screw my skin up even more than it is already, but I love the idea of being fitter, as I get older, than I have done in years, and steadfastly anchoring myself to a lifestyle in which I can honestly say that I'm doing the best that I can to be a super low carbon person.
It is different every day, despite the monotony of doing the same route. I have discovered that I dislike cycling through town in the dark, particularly down the Hyde Park cycle lane which is pitch black. Other, slightly stupid cyclists who do not have lights put everyone in danger - and there's one or two every day. Cycling in the freezing cold is a frustrating experience given the long distance. You have to wear ironically Michelin Man sized "thinsulate" gloves to even stand a chance of your hands being usable (not to mention the 3 leg layers and body layers) but by the end of nine miles, you're cursing yourself at being overdressed, with a face looking much like a boiled tomato.
What has been nice has been getting to know parts of London I rarely see again. Cycling up from Marble Arch to Buck House along a lovely downward, straight slope, fringed by mighty trees, one emerges to see Big Ben telling you the time, and the gorgeous circle of the London Eye poking it's way above the trees of St James' Park. I used to work in St James' Square, up the Mall a way, and my strangest association around this area is wandering out to see the bizarre crowds milling about looking lost in the days before Princess Diana's funeral.
Part of the mission has been to find ways to avoid traffic wherever possible, purely in the name of making it home alive to help put my kids to bed. So instead of hurtling around Victoria station, and a frankly nerve wracking junction set before having to brave wandering out in to the middle of the road at Marble Arch, I now scoot off to the right as quickly as possible after Vauxhall Bridge, to nip up the back streets, through the gorgeous delights of Vincent Square (it has a school's playing fields, surrounded by tall trees and an oldy fence, in the middle - cricket pitch; pavilion - the works) and up past the aforementioned palace. It puts a few minutes on the journey, but on one particularly rainy day when my glasses were a liability, I looked toward the Marble Arch / Victoria part of the journey with dread, wondering "What if this is the last time I do it?". Time to change my route.
Three things have come to annoy me. Not really in the way they did when I was younger - then, I had a bad temper on the bike which I can now only think of in amazement. These days, a little talking to myself in wonderment at the stupidity of situations suffices - though it does tend to consist of incredulous swearing.
Stupid drivers are unfortunately, an inevitability. It is rare, in fact, that a driver does something genuinely dumb and I'm a victim of my own bad memory that I can't really think of anything that has nearly killed me since being clipped off the bike at Clapham North. Nevertheless, it's rare that one doesn't end up stumped and breaking hard whilst a complete tit works out whether they want to reverse in to you, or drive over you.
Stupid cyclists come in a variety of different colours. What astonishes me about stupid cyclists and stupid pedestrians is their apparent willingness to end their lives with gay abandon. Mooching out in to busy traffic, not bothering to stop at red lights *at all*, despite a visibly large van coming in the other direction, no lights... nine times out of ten - no, 99 times out of 100 it is male cyclists who decide to undertake these feats of bravado and dumbness, although I know from experience that even in those who profess to be uncompetitive (ie: me), there is always an itch to be in front of someone you perceive to be slower / less 'cool' than you. In some, this seems to make them want to play Russian roulette with the oncoming large metal vehicles, as if to prove their manliness. In fact, it proves that they're complete twats. Annoying cyclists, who aren't really stupid as such are those that are speedy off the blocks, but terrible sprinters. I'm terribly slow off the blocks but a decent sprinter, which over and over again means I'm stuck behind some slowcoach who managed to nip off before me when the lights turned green. Inevitably these turn out to be blokes, who then feel deeply offended that a woman - and not even a young attractive woman, has scooted past them. they then speed up desperately in order to overtake me, before trundling back down to their previous snails pace. AAARGH.
The last type of cyclist who doesn't annoy me at all, to be fair, but I do find hilarious, is the dedicated Denton or similar foldup bike cyclist who squiddles along, whilst wearing THE LATEST supercool zippy, neon, Christ only knows how expensive layered gear and snazzy helmet (even worse - shades). They share a see-saw with other types of (again, male) cyclists who have bought astonishingly beautiful bikes marked up in to the thousand, that really shouldn't be being used to short hall cycle-commutes at all, along with all that snazzy gear to wear... only to be toddling down the road at a ridiculous slow pace that puts the gorgeously engineered piece of equipment to shame. Much as I do really like my bike, please - have it! I'll have yours and then we'll all be happier!
The last group of road using buffoons are of course, stupid pedestrians. Of whom they are plenty, practically flinging themselves in to the roads in the path of oncoming vehicles. Anyone would think the world was populated exclusively by the deaf-blind, mysteriously camouflaged to look like office working Londoners. By far the worst offenders are those at the junction of Artillery Row going up to Buckingham Gate (crossing Victoria Street). I'm regularly amazed as I sail toward these ignorant berks, pinging away on my bell whilst my green light clearly glows, that they continue to wander, chatting to each other, directly in to my path. It is this junction that has managed the impossible. It has made me feel empathy with the drivers. A couple of weeks ago, a driver was attempting to move off on a green light, but the pedestrians kept streaming across the road, to the extent that one pedestrian stopped, in the middle of the road and chastised said driver with a cascade of swearing. Er....
Lastly - long, fat, heavy or bendy vehicles I now try to avoid at every opportunity I can. I don't like them, they are enormous, and they could inflict more damage to me in 3 seconds than I could to them in a year.
Recently, at the behest of our beloved Mayor, motorcyclists have begun an 18 month trial in which they are allowed to drive along bus lanes. Which is as screwed up as it sounds. I was cut up by a frighteningly close high powered moped yesterday and it freaked me out. I have absolute sympathy with motorcyclists who I'm sure are being mowed down in impressively scary numbers whilst buzzing down the open roads. Piling them in with cyclists - without any guidance either - seems to be a recipe for disaster - and fear, which might scare the many near misses which will inevitably happen off the roads. Stupid. Anyone who drives, or cycles along the Stockwell Road at about 8.45 on a weekday or 6ish coming home will know that it's the biking equivalent to Piccadilly Circus. Swarming with relatively low speed, extremely vulnerable road users. Whacking some great revving high powered motorbike in to that mix sounds utterly insane to me.
We'll see how it works out. Oh, by the way, he's also cut investment in maintaining cycle lanes. Good job! Well done, you shortsighted nitwit.