Bike the Strike

So here I am in That London, having safely negotiated my way up to Palmers Green. I had to get myself first to the Holloway Road, which wasn’t too bad, at least until you get to Islington and the nice bike contraflows disappear and are replaced by a 20 mph zone, which is obviously awesome and everything, but not if you still end up at the wrong end of a one way street and having to cycle around some massive one-way system playing ‘please don’t kill me if you can help it Mr. Bus Driver’.*

Once done there, I decided to avoid the trains even though they were running, because even a folded Brompton is a bit too much bike to be squeezing onto a massively packed carriage full of Picadilly line refugees – and besides it’s actually easier to cycle the whole way to Palmer’s Green than it is to lug a Brompton through Highbury and Islington Station. I made my way northwards following a reasonably non scary route up to Alexandra Palace, from where I thought I knew way. Having made only a few wrong turns and stopped to check my A to Z hardly more than a dozen times, I found myself in the back streets north of Ally Pally consulting my map and wondering how pigeons manage to instinctively know where north is when I can’t even tell with the help of a map and two years in the Guides (there aren’t many trees with lichen on them in North London). A passing cyclist asked me if I needed any help and fortunately he was going my way because – and this is really the subject of tonight’s rant – because the way I thought I was going to go has been scuppered. I used to cut along the back streets and cross the North Circular at a handy pedestrian crossing, but apparently they have widened the road there since last summer and removed the crossing, replacing it with some topiary instead. Following my guide, we had to get onto Green Lanes (if you’re not familiar with North London this is neither green nor a lane but a standard issue scary London A road) and joust with the buses for road space to cross the North Circular on one of those head-down-and-pedal-like-all-the-hounds-of-hell-are-after-you junctions.*

I really cannot believe that they are taking pedestrian crossings out, in this day and age. Apparently, the Enfield mini-Holland funding will turn Green Lanes into, if not actually a green lane, but at least somewhere where you get your own space on the road without having to share it with double decker buses (which I swear have got bigger since I left London: were they always basically blocks of flats on wheels?) as long as the shopkeepers of Green Lanes don’t have their way and scupper it for the Great God Parking. Frankly, it can’t come soon enough, but even so, they’ve got to reinstate that crossing, if only for the pedestrians. Come on London, what on earth were you thinking?

Tomorrow, I think I’ll just take the train…

*If you’re reading this, Mum, I got off and walked at that bit


5 Responses to Bike the Strike

  1. John Gibson says:

    Reading about you cycling around London scares me. I don’t like going there on the train, and just walking around, so I could just not do it on a bike.

  2. disgruntled says:

    I am really extremely cautious, and quite happy to bail out and just push the bike if it gets too scary

  3. Paul M says:

    This may sound like a contradiction in terms, but I am simultaneously more intimidated by London traffic, and feel safer on London roads, than I feel on the rural roads around where I live. There, I have to deal with fewer vehicles but generally they are moving faster, paying less attention to cyclists or walkers (there are far fewer around) and the road is more peppered with bends and the aptly named “dead ground” of what is behind a rise in the road ahead.

    On the A286 for example, I have never seen anyone cycling unless in full lycra, wraparound shades and helmet, head down and going at it hammer and tongs. It takes a special kind of madness to ride a rural through road.

    Mind you, in some respects you are quite right: buses have actually got bigger – if you compare the new Routemaster with the old version in particular, the difference is obvious; pedestrian crossings have been removed, notably one in Paul Street, near the Old St roundabout, which caused an uproar due to implications for sight-impaired pedestrians. Crossings have also been rephased so that only 6 seconds is given for people to cross – based on the assumption that people can walk at 1.2 metres/second across a “standard” 7 metre wide two-laner (many London streets are wider than this – the time allowed is not correspondingly increased).

    Perhaps all we can hope is that, if Boris does return to Parliament next May and starts to plot his leadership bid, he will become even less engaged with the detail of his job as Mayor than he already is, and who knows, maybe there are subversives at TfL who will sneak improvements in under his nose? Sadly it will largely be too late for me – that co-incides with my retirement from full-time working in London

  4. Andy in Germany says:

    And to think that I complain about the 500 metre bit of slightly fast road I have to drive down in the 20+ kilometres of my commute to college. It is remarkable that anyone gets on a bike at all in London, let alone in sufficient numbers to make a noise about the infrastructure.

  5. […] The Brompton and I survived cycling in London (and not for the first time […]

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