Bike riding London
Discovering London by bike is another great way to get to know the city. It’s easy for tourists and locals alike to rent a bike and start exploring!
London bike rental – ”Boris bikes”
I know what you’re thinking: ‘’Oh dear, a Dutch and her precious bike.’’ Yes okay, I admit, I love bikes. I’m Dutch, and there are more bicycles in this country than people (no really, this is true). London on the other hand is not yet victimized by a major bicycle invasion. That doesn’t mean however that it is impossible to discover London by bike. On the contrary, London’s Mayor, Boris Johnson, himself even introduced the Barclays Cycle Hire Plan, also known as Boris Bikes (isn’t it cute?). And there are several companies where you can rent bikes and those that offer guided bicycle tours.
Update: as from now on, Barclays isn’t the main sponsor of the Boris Bikes anymore, but Santander. What color do you think looks better on the bikes? Blue or red? See for yourself:
The dangers of entering the bustling streets of London by bike aside, the city actually offers a lot of opportunities for cycle enthusiasts like you and me. For example, special bicycle lanes are designed in some of the most crowded parts of town, or you can decide to take a little detour and explore the green outskirts the city has on offer.
Exploring London’s Royal Parks
A personal favorite of mine is exploring the Royal Parks by bike. Last month, I rented a Boris Bike at Marble Arch, right in front of Hyde Park. The weather was great, an almost cloudless sky, and no wind: a cyclist’s dream. We fed the ducks and (the slightly intimidating) gooses in the Serpentine, glanced in awe at the palace inhabited by the Duke and Duchess of Cambridge, and manoeuvered through vibrant Kensington High Street.
I didn’t realize how cold and tired I had become when I parked my Boris Bike at one of the cycle docks at Holland Park, but when I alighted at one of the comfy couches of the Holland Park Café, I was glad I could fuel myself up with a nice cuppa. An afternoon well spent.
Lea River bike ride
Another cycle route I’m dying to share with you is one me and my dad took back when I lived in E17. Yes, I lived in the Borough of Walthamstow. It really isn’t that bad as people say. Anyway, while I lived there, I noticed that there ran some sort of canal about 100m from where I lived. I quickly learned that this was the Lea River, a beautiful spot for cycling. Passing gorgeous parks, nature reserves, pubs, and the famous London canal boats, the route my dad and I did there (from Blackhorse Road to Greenwich) proved to be a true gem. We experienced a quietness you normally wouldn’t associate with Big Bad London.
On the way, we passed the Olympic Park, which was still under construction at the time. I couldn’t believe that in a few months’ time, the eyes of the entire world would be aimed at this specific place in Stratford, East London. We witnessed the hundreds of construction workers doing their very best to get everything picture-perfect on time.
Taking the foot tunnel to Greenwich
We jumped back on our bikes and continued our ride towards Greenwich. However, we got lost. We got off the tow path at some point, because we knew we had to head towards Poplar, and then Canary Wharf to Island Gardens in order for us to reach our final destination. Even though we had no idea exactly what streets to take, we passed some interesting sights along the way and ended up right in the middle of the impressive skyscrapers of Canary Wharf. Of course we stopped for a few minutes to take pictures and take in the breathtaking sight. Did we finally make it to the other side of the Thames (via the Greenwich foot tunnel) and to the famous Greenwich Naval College? Check out the pictures for yourself!
Frequently asked questions about cycling and bike rental in London
London is becoming more and more bike-friendly. The local government is investing massively in creating dedicated cycle lanes and even 450km of ‘Cycle Superhighways’ connecting different parts of the city. For all London cycleways, please visit the tfl website.
To rent a Santander Bicycle (Boris Bike), you pay £2 to access it for 24 hours; the first 30 minutes of each journey are free. For longer journeys, it costs an extra £2 for each additional 30 minutes.
Wearing a helmet is not mandatory when cycling in London, but it is highly recommended for safety reasons.