Often the best time spent relaxing in the city means going somewhere – whether that involves going for a lovely evening stroll down by the river, or taking the car out for a spin. An ever-more popular means of travelling can instead be found on two wheels.
So with the coming of spring, the (hope of) bright sunshine and long afternoons, we’ve put together our favourite springtime cycle routes through London – whether you’re after a late-night ride or just want to escape the afternoon traffic.
The upcoming city of cyclists
London still has far to catch up with other European cities, where more journeys are made by bike. In Amsterdam, for example, around a third of commutes take place on two wheels, against just 3% in London.
In recent years, however, London has improved for cyclists – a lot. Where once there was an absence of cycle lanes and little attention paid to their safety, we now find in some cases cyclists outnumbering drivers, and we couldn’t be happier. Transport for London (TfL) is continuing to expand its range of Cycle Superhighways – segregated and clearly marked cycle lanes – that now criss-cross the city. Maps and more information can be found on the TfL website.
One way of replicating the heroics of 2012 is to cycle alongside the professionals. Well, almost, for the Olympic Park is the nearest you can come to riding through London’s world-class facilities. The park is a beautiful area matching any of London’s other parks, especially during the Spring when the wild flowers blossom by the waterways that snake between the Olympic venues. It doesn’t get too busy either, providing ample space to roam free.
Start by hiring a Santander Cycle on Bow Road and cycle north towards Roman Road. Then turn right and go over both the Wick Land and Monier Road roundabouts, before heading over the River Lee and straight into the Olympic Park. From here you can cycle pretty much anywhere, though we would recommend going around the Lee Valley VeloPark and past the main stadium – stopping off for an ice-cream break in the shade of the Velodrome if the weather is particularly demanding.
This route is fantastic late at night, with the brilliant Chelsea and Albert Bridges illuminated to guide you through the heart of well-to-do West London. You’ll end up in the centre of Hammersmith, from which you can easily relax in one of the riverside pubs or take the Underground to complete your journey. Just remember your high-visibility gear…
You begin at Vauxhall Bridge and make your way west, at first sticking close to the banks of the Thames. Eventually you will come across Albert Bridge, at which point you cross over to the other side of the river and carry on westward, this time weaving your way through some of the smaller, more residential streets. Coming into Wandsworth, Old York Road near Wandsworth Town station has a number of cafés and bars, perfect for a break and a drink: we’d recommend Beer Boutique. After you’ve rested, head towards Putney, before crossing the river again over Putney Bridge. With the looming Bishops Park to your left, you can then head towards Hammersmith along Fulham Palace Road, which won’t be too busy later in the day. And then the pink facade of Hammersmith Broadway will welcome you as you find somewhere to dock your bikes.
Transport for London have a number of handy guides and routes on their website, providing details about some of the more well-known routes, as well as areas to explore away from the tourists. A particular highlight is their ‘Quirky London‘ route, featuring some unusual sites along the route from London Bridge to Neal’s Yard in Covent Garden, near Drury Lane.
The Cross Bones Graveyard, at the start of the route, was the burial site for those deemed sinners and not worthy of a Church burial. You cycle past the Church of St Bartholomew the Great, which, having been founded originally in 1123, has the esteemed title of London’s oldest surviving church. Nearby is the Golden Boy, on the site of final embers of the Great Fire of London in 1666. Neal’s Yard has a wide range of boutique cafés and shops: though we’d recommend Canela Café for a post-cycle bite to eat.