Most of my rides into work were from London Bridge to Kings Cross. London Bridge was the first station on the way into London and, impatient as I am, I wanted to push on with the next stage of my journey. The most alarming part of the journey always seemed to be coming off Tooley Street on to London Bridge itself, particularly one day when the elastic on my pannier rack failed, liberating a pair of shoes and a newspaper across the junction. Fortunately for me (and contrary to many people’s opinions of London drivers) the traffic was most considerate of me as I dashed to and fro, collecting the debris from the road.
I tracked my journey by tube stations, translating it to the pleasingly straightforward and easy to navigate tube map I am so familiar with. I passed Monument, though seldom saw it. I turned left at Bank and pedaled on towards St Pauls, past the shops and cafes of Cheapside. I rode across the Holburn Viaduct (a feat which I had dreaded because I had imagined a steep climb to approach it but which was usually barely noticable) and turned right at Chancery Lane. Actually that wasn’t part of the initial route we had planned but, having avoided Gray’s Inn Road initially as being cycle unfriendly, I later found the route to be free of issues, faster and easier to navigate than the more convoluted route we’d initially plotted out which involved an awkward crossing of Euston Road west of Kings Cross but taking an easier turning onto York way.
My lesson from this journey was to position myself in the correct lane early. On a bike I travel almost as fast as the cars and buses in London, due to the volume of traffic and the frequency of lights and junctions, so seldom held them up much if they couldn’t pass me but if I missed an opportunity to move into the right hand lane for turning right there was a very good chance I would end up having to pull over and walk across at a pedestrian crossing. Although the ability to do that is something else I love about cycling – if I had been driving I would have had to find some way of turning around.
Sometimes I would stay on the train until Waterloo East but I would get confused trying to get out of the station and end up pushing my bike all the way through to Waterloo to get to a familiar start point. I never did work out how to get out of Waterloo East, but I found an exit from Waterloo by some Boris Bikes which led me straight on to a network of cycle paths.
At first I was intimidated by the IMAX roundabout but I soon realised that staying calm and keeping left moved me effortlessly into the bus lane across Waterloo bridge. Dedicated cycle routes and quiet back streets wrapped me in a blanket of confidence as I wended my way past the British Museum and Russell Square.
For a couple of weeks engineering works diverted me to Cannon Street and I would ride my bike past the majesty of St Paul’s Cathedral before joining up with my usual London Bridge route. I found I liked seeing the fabulous architecture so, when the engineering works had finished and I was back to London Bridge, I altered my route to take in the landmark on a more regular basis.
Going home was another matter. A colleague of mine had expressed surprise at finding out I took the train from London Bridge at the end of the day as he went from Charing Cross. “But there isn’t an Underground line which goes straight to Charing Cross; doesn’t changing lines mean it takes a lot longer?” It turns out he got off at Leicester Square and walked to Charing Cross.
Walked? In London? That was something which hadn’t occurred to me.
I tried it; I liked it and, when I started riding, Charing Cross came to be my departure point of choice, being a much more accessible station, much quicker to get to past the British Museum (which I have yet to set foot in) and Trafalgar Square (which one evening contained a large glowing ball). Plus, being the end of the line, it was invariably easier to find space on the train. Although there was always the lure of riding past St Paul’s Cathedral to London Bridge…