How to Travel Safely in London
Coronavirus restrictions are easing in the UK, with all non-essential shops due to re-open from the 15th June. As things continue to change over the coming weeks, it’ll be more important than ever to know how to travel safely around the capital – so we’ve put together this handy guide that covers cycling, walking, and public transport. Please be aware that guidance is changing quickly at present, though, so always check the latest government advice before travelling.
How to Travel in London: Cycling
Unsurprisingly, cycling has boomed in popularity in recent months: it’s a great way to see the city, a fantastic mode of exercise, and an easy way to maintain distance from others (when required). Indeed, the UK government recently pledged £2 billion towards new cycling and walking initiatives, with Prime Minister Boris Johnson promising a ‘new golden age for cycling’.
Though the government intends to use part of the pledged fund to create new cycle paths, London already benefits from a multitude of excellent cycling routes: from cycleways to special bike lanes. The London Cycling Campaign is a good resource and contains a handy route planner; alternatively, apps like Google Maps and Citymapper are useful – you can map your journey before you set off and then keep the app open on your phone as a reference point.
During the coronavirus outbreak, cycling is one of the safest ways to travel. Currently, there is no requirement to wear a mask whilst cycling, as maintaining a safe distance from others is relatively easy. In addition, the air quality in London has been much improved due to the lower traffic volumes: an unexpected – and pleasant – side-effect of the pandemic (and a bonus for cyclists and pedestrians).
There are not many onerous rules and regulations when it comes to cycling in the UK, but there are a few legal requirements. You must stop at red traffic lights (at all times), and, if you’re going to cycle at night, your bike must be equipped with reflectors and two bike lights (red at the back and white at the front). You are not permitted to ride your bike on a pavement unless you see a sign providing express permission. Familiarising yourself with the Highway Code is recommended but not mandatory!
Photo Credit: Flickr/Waterford_Man
Find A Bike
If you’re visiting London and don’t have a bike, it couldn’t be simpler to rent one for the day with Transport for London’s scheme. Simply download the Santander Cycles app or go to any docking station terminal and use the touchscreens to get started. You don’t need to book in advance – just turn up, ride it, and return to any docking station.
Something to bear in mind: it’s perfectly safe to hire a bicycle during the coronavirus outbreak, but be sure to wipe down grips, handlebars, and anywhere else you need to put your hands before and after use. Wash hands thoroughly and often – we recommend carrying hand sanitiser gel with you at all times when out and about in the capital.
Photo Credit: Flickr/La-Citta-Vita
Unlimited outdoor exercise is now permitted in the UK – meaning that there’s no better way to explore London than on foot! Fortunately, London has a range of fantastic routes that are perfect for getting from place to place, as well as generally experiencing what the capital has to offer.
Tfl’s Walk London Network is one of the largest walking networks in the world. Each route is designed to be easily accessible and is broken down into sections, making it simple to travel as far as you wish to go. The routes include:
• Capital Ring. A 78-mile route split into 15 shorter routes, this takes pedestrians on a circular walk through London’s ‘greenest’ suburbs. Covering Richmond Park, Wimbledon Common and Eltham Palace, as well as other Sites of Specific Interest, this is a great way to gain an overview of the city.
• Thames Path. In the mood for a river walk? Look no further than the Thames Path. Passing through the heart of London - all the way from Hampton Court Palace to East India Dock – the 40-mile route offers a pleasant, flat walk with river views.
• Jubilee Walkway. Completed in 2012 to celebrate Queen Elizabeth II’s Diamond Jubilee and the Olympic Games – with one mile to celebrate each year of the British monarch’s reign – the Jubilee Walkway starts, appropriately, at Buckingham Palace, and covers many of London’s most iconic landmarks (from St Paul’s Cathedral to Kensington Palace).
For more ideas on where to walk, and access to the full list of Walk London Network routes, visit Tfl.
The London Underground and buses continue to run throughout the coronavirus crisis – but with a restricted service. This is likely to change as lockdown measures are eased over the summer, so do be sure to check the Transport for London website for the latest advice. At present, several stations are permanently closed, as well as the Waterloo and City Line. Buses are running a similar service to a regular Saturday (fairly frequent, but less frequent than a typical weekday service).
There is no restriction on travel in and out of the capital.
From Monday 15th June, face coverings must be worn for the entirety of your journey on public transport. At present, Tfl is distributing free face coverings at certain underground and bus stations; alternatively, you could make a mask using simple, easy-to-find materials.
Hand sanitiser points have been added to all underground and Tfl rail stations; certain London overground and DLR stations; all bus stations; and Victoria coach station. For safety reasons, on most forms of public transport it is mandatory to pay using contactless methods (no cash; Oyster or credit/debit card only).
It’s relatively simple to travel easily and safely on public transport in London. The following guidelines will help make your journey as secure as possible:
• Wear a face covering.
• Where possible, keep 2 metres away from other people.
• Wash your hands before and after your journey.
• Use the hand sanitisers provided or carry your own hand sanitiser with you at all times.
• Use contactless methods to pay for your travel.