Everything You Need to Know About Cycling Around London Safely
It's clear from looking out the window or walking through the park that there has been an influx of cyclists within the last few months as people embrace a more active lifestyle. This being a result of gyms closing and public transport limited. Whether you're cycling for fitness, pleasure or commuting, it's important to know how to stay safe out on a bike and why cycling is a fun alternative to running or walking.
Voir has spoken to Mildred Locke, cyclist and volunteer bike mechanic on her opinions surrounding the subject. We asked Mildred why she thinks cycling has increased in popularity during lockdown; she believes it's because 'it offers independence as you can go anywhere under your own steam, also covering a lot more distance than if you're walking or running'. She continues, acknowledging that 'it's the most efficient way to move as it requires less energy for the amount of distance travelled, and it's a low-impact sport so it won't cause as many injuries as running can'. Mildred also emphasises that with cycling, you're less reliant on public transport and cars, which is better for the environment.
If you're anything like me, you probably haven't ridden a bike since you were little. Our first bikes were likely to be bright pink with sparkly tassels on the handlebars, only riding them on the pavement outside our homes under the watchful eyes of our parents. So, we asked Mildred on advice for picking out a bike as a beginner. She advises to choose a bike depending on the use for it, such as a Dutch-style 'sit-up-and-beg' bike if you're riding through flat terrain- these bikes are more comfortable and simpler to use and usually have one gear/speed which requires very little maintenance. This vintage style bike is perfect for gentle and graceful riding. Mildred encourages the use of a hybrid bike with multiple gears if you'll be riding up and down hills regularly, as these climb easily. She also recommends against riding a mountain bike for commuting and fitness because they're heavy and sluggish- a hybrid bike is more suited for the job.
While cycling should be a fun activity, it's crucial to stay safe and respect others when out riding. Mildred explains that when cycling on the road, you must follow the highway code- including no dangerous riding and no running red lights. It is also important to avoid cycling on pavements unless it is marked safe to do so. A key point when cycling is to stay alert. Proper accessories are also important in staying safe, even if you're doing a short commute to work.
Mildred explains that decent lights, white for the front and red for the black are crucial, as well as a good quality lock to prevent theft when locking up your bike. She also states that some emergency supplies such as a puncture repair kit and multi-tool are important. While there are no laws in regard to what cyclists must wear, a helmet is encouraged. For further information on cycling accessories, check out bikeradar.com.
As long as you obey the rules of the road, stay alert to the things around you, communicate with others and feel confident within yourself, driving anywhere-city or rural areas, is completely safe. Mildred's advice includes growing a thick skin because no matter how sensibly you behave while cycling, you will always encounter someone who doesn't want to share to the road with you.
Words by Camila Karalyte
Graphics by Katie Janes