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Goldsmiths' Official Student Magazine

Rotating your legs in London: The case for cycling in the city

7 February 2020
Valerie Statham-Sprod shares why she loves cycling around London, despite the apparent dangers.

They gasp, raise their eyebrows, and then it’s declared – ‘I’d never do that.’

I’ve listened to the exclamation of these words countless times after informing my auditor that I cycle around London. There’s a culprit at hand as to why so many don’t cycle in London: the fear. She lies at large, preventing many from even entertaining the thought, hissing the good people away with promises of mutilated limbs trapped between spokes, skin graphs and tales of skulls meeting, far too informally, with concrete.

You never win that contest. 

Always wear a helmet. Once the said helmet is on your head there are ample quiet roads for you peruse through, en route to your destination. And no, these ‘quiet’ roads I refer to do not lie on the foreign edges of London. They are nestled amongst the monster roads people claim to both love and hate. Peaceful roads lined with greenery and with hugely variant architecture actually make up the majority of London, but most of us are ignorant or forgetful of their existence. Why? Because we take the bus, or we take the tube, and  buses only ever go the most direct route, missing out all the urban space that nestles behind the high streets carved out from the grey, brimming with hairdressers, chicken shops and cafes. Even our beloved tube stations choke us back into only the busiest of places.

Everyone in London is able to recall at least eight insane urban cycling tactics that they have personally witnessed (from memory). Flying lycra disappearing through two buses at 7.14 am, running red lights, no lights, those cyclists who appear to request an alternative from life. But that is how they’ve decided to cycle. And I stress that it need not be the style that you replicate, once you are in possession of a metal frame with two wheels at either end. Perhaps don’t cycle at rush-hour and maybe…you know, take caution?

A beautiful and fresh autumn afternoon? Why don’t you follow your curiosity and decide to cycle aimlessly around your local area, no destination in mind, just following your whim and the pretty streets that catch your eye. Before you know it, you’ll stumble across a cycle path and be amazed at where it takes you. Time will pass and  you’ll be by a landmark you recognize, you’ll see a shop you remember, and realize where you are – cycling somewhere parallel to the busy and monotonous main road that seems to sprawl through all of London.

Benefits, of course, include health – you need not worry about it being strenuous though as most of London is incredibly flat and you can travel vast distances without the smallest of inclinations. Quirky cafes and beautiful spots jump out at you – be prepared, there’s a lot out there. With these alternative routes, you should be able to enjoy cycling in London and perhaps even be relaxed by it, as I so often am.

Last but not least, it’s pretty much always the quickest and cheapest way to get to your destination. Throw some of your usual routes into google maps, city mapper or onto your navigational chart and compass, whatever you use as a means of calculus and you’ll be pleasantly surprised.

I know I need not mention the climate. See you on the road.

Words, Valerie Statham-Sprod

Sketch, Ivy Doxtader