Cycle-seeing in London - will it catch on?

Here at the London Pass Blog, we’re often asked for tips on how to make the most of the fabulous London Pass sightseeing offers, and take in as many of the sights and sounds of London that a short visit will allow. Exploring the city by bike is one way to not only move smoothly between attractions, but also to catch a glimpse of a London largely unseen by many tourists. But just how safe is cycling in London? Is cycle-seeing really a practical London sightseeing option for tourists, or is it safer, drier and altogether easier to opt for public transport and good old-fashioned walking? To find out, we asked cycling experts Steve Kopandy (Business Manager at London Bicycle Tour Company) and Andreas Kambanis (founder of London’s leading cycling blog, London Cyclist). Here’s what they had to say ... London Pass Blogger: Let’s start with getting hold of a bike. London isn’t exactly Amsterdam (yet) ... how easy is it really to hire a bike in the city? Andreas: It’s very easy. Through either the Cycle Hire Scheme or one of the many bicycle hire shops, you can easily get out on two wheels and start exploring. You can use TFL’s website to find the nearest docking station, or do a quick Google search to bring up a list of people that rent bikes. Steve: I agree with Andreas, it couldn’t be easier. If you don’t want to do-it-yourself with the Cycle Hire Scheme (‘Boris bikes’ to us Londoners) and you prefer a more personal service with friendly advice, a hire shop may be your best bet. Ours is in Central London right by the river, and we also hire helmets, kids’ bikes and specialty bikes. London Pass Blogger: OK, so no problem in actually finding a bicycle, and hiring the gear. But how safe am I going to be, if I start cycling in London? Andreas: I’ve been riding in London almost every day since 2007 and I have never had a serious incident. In central London, drivers tend to look out for cyclists and traffic speeds are slow. Steve: In our 23 years of operation, we have had tens of thousands of customers on bike tours and renting bikes from us. There have been no serious accidents in all that time. London Pass Blogger: I’m reassured to hear that – 23 years is very impressive, but there have been a few cycling incidents in the news over the last 12 months. Is London becoming less safe for cyclists? Steve: No, on the contrary. London is getting safer for cyclists. As more people cycle, awareness increases (especially among drivers), and there is greater investment in cycle paths and facilities. Andreas: There are also planned improvements to the infrastructure, that will create physical barriers between cyclists and drivers, thus minimising the danger and making for a far more pleasant ride. London Pass Blogger: Great, I’m feeling more confident by the minute and am now ready to explore London by bike. Where should I start? Can you tell me some of the best routes to follow? Andreas: My personal favourite, is to take the traffic-free Thames Path all the way to Richmond Park. I love being along the Thames and away from cars. The park itself is beautiful and great for cycling. And you can cover a lot more ground on a bike, than on foot. Steve: For me, the Grand Waterways tour is amazing. It follows Regent’s Canal around the outskirts of Central London from east to west and takes in Limehouse, Mile End Park, Victoria Park, Camden, Regent's Park, Little Venice and Hyde Park. Finishing up at Westminster Abbey, you’ll have seen many sides of London in just one day, on a mostly traffic-free route. London Pass Blogger: Do you think ‘cycle-seeing’ will catch on? Andreas: I think it’ll get more popular as London’s cycling infrastructure improves. The truth is, you miss so much by sitting on an underground train. Above ground is where the fun is! Steve: It's already caught on! We offer three guided tours a day, all year round. In the warmer months, we offer 10 tours a day, in 7 different languages. And we'd love to do more! The more people on bikes, the healthier the population, and the less pollution in London. London Pass Blogger: Thank you both for sharing your passion for cycling, and putting our fears to rest about cycling in the city. Finally, any cycling stories you’d like to share with our readers? Or any myths you’d like to dispel? Andreas: I have a slightly embarrassing story. On my first day at work in London, I decided to cycle to the office, confident I’d get there easily and on time. I arrived an hour and a half late, and very red-faced. I strongly recommend having a good look at a map before setting off, and carefully planning your route! Steve: I’d like to dispel the myth that there isn’t enough space for cyclists in London. This is wrong. When bus lanes were created, there was a shared understanding and desire for this to happen in order to make bus travel an appealing alternative to car ownership. The same is already happening with the bicycle. The space is there. Embrace it. Andreas Kambanis started cycling to work in 2007. After Googling subjects like ‘Best cycling routes in London’ and ‘best bike locks’, to no avail, he ‘seized the handlebars with both hands’ and started blogging about these topics. Today, London Cyclist is one of London’s most popular blogs with over 100,000 visitors a month. It’s an essential blog to bookmark if you’re a London cyclist (tourist or resident). Steve Kopandy is manager at The London Bicycle Tour Company: London's first and largest bicycle touring company. Established in 1991, tours are conducted in English, French, German, Dutch, Spanish, Italian, Portuguese and Japanese for over 10,000 people every year, offering a full range of rental bikes for all sizes and journeys.

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