Back on the bike

Last week, I went to have a beer or three with James, who has recently taken up cycling to work. He’s arranging a bike ride down to Brighton in August. I’ve always wanted to take part in the British Heart Foundation’s London to Brighton Bike Ride, but never seem to register on time. So James’ bike ride to Brighton will be the perfect opportunity to find out if I’m up to it. Of course, I hadn’t been riding my bike at all lately.

Until last week, that is. Last weekend, I pulled my bike out from under the tarp in our back garden. I cleaned it up, lubed the chain, tightened the breaks and took it for a test ride up and down our street. I then used Transport for London’s Journey Planner to find a route to work. On Monday, I cycled to work. The TfL route wasn’t ideal — way too much terror at Vauxhall and Trafalgar Square.

Despite the terror, I’d forgotten how much I enjoy riding my bike. It’s actually much less frustrating than dealing with the daily stress of the tube. Of course, cycling to work has its own stresses, and London’s bizarre cycle lanes are often more of a hindrance than a help. Don’t get me wrong, I’m glad that cycle lanes exist, but some of them are incredibly difficult to use, especially the first time you use them. Twice on my way home from work — on St Pancras Way and again on Purchase Street — the cycle lane jumps suddenly from the left side of the street to the right side. Purchase Street is fairly quiet, so this isn’t so bad. St Pancras Way is busy, and the only way to safely move into the two-way cycle lane on the right side of the street is to position yourself well in advance. This is impossible the first time you’re using the cycle lane and pretty damn dangerous during rush hour, regardless of whether or not you’ve used the cycle lane before.

I’m now curious about how and why these decisions get made. I’m considering exploring as many of London’s cycle paths as possible. In order to learn more about how cycle lanes are created and to help improve them, I’d like to document the weirdness that I find. To this end, I’ve joined the London Cycling Campaign, and I may set up a separate blog about my cycling (mis)adventures.

I’m trying to find out if there is any public, Internet-based forum for raising and discussing London-related cycle lane weirdness, but haven’t found anything yet. Crap Cycle Lanes of Croydon, among others, seems to be doing a pretty good job of this, but these seem to be individual efforts rather than a group effort. You can report street faults on the TfL website and to the borough councils, but this doesn’t seem to include cycle lanes. Moreover, fault tracking is hidden behind a system that requires you to know the fault id. There is also no facility for public discussion. If anyone knows of a website that allows cyclists to collaboratively report and discuss dangerous cycle lanes, please let me know. I’d love to join and contribute.

Despite my moaning about London cycle lanes, I’m glad to be back on the bike and looking forward to the trip to Brighton, though I’m not looking forward to how sore my butt is going to be the following day.

Update I’ve just discovered that the CTC‘s FillThatHole.co.uk has map of road hazards, which gives you the ID and allows you to track the status. They also have maps of long distance cycle routes. Alas, I still haven’t found anything along the lines of FillThatHole.co.uk for dangerous cycle lanes.