I went down to London last week for a course. We lived in London for just over ten years, but left about six years ago, when we decided that if we were going to have a family, we'd prefer to raise our children somewhere a bit less frantic.
The tube was pretty much how I remembered it - people crammed shoulder to shoulder, in some cases, face to face, like cliched sardines. I stood, uncomfortably, with my fellow commuters, ipod glued to my ears, trying not to catch anyone's eye.
When I emerged, blinking in the sunshine of Chancery Lane, I was amazed to see so many cyclists. I remembered London as being full of traffic, with only brave or crazy cycle-couriers weaving in and out of the cars, vans and lorries, risking death to deliver a package on time. But here were ordinary people, commuters, men, women, old and young on cycles of all descriptions Some on sporty racing bikes, some on old-fashioned sit-up-and-beg bikes, others on trail bikes or those strange-looking ones that look a bit like bob-sleds where you're almost lying down.
And blow me, when they hit a red light, if they didn't start talking to each other. And laughing. Strangers saying good morning. Sharing a joke. Good God above! What's going on? This isn't the London I remember. If strangers start talking to each other, why, anything could happen!
I've never ridden a bike on an English road, but recently I acquired a bike, and I'm planning to get it serviced and give it a whirl. I'm nervous about traffic in Norwich (for some reason drivers here don't seem to know where their indicators are!) but if people can cycle in the biggest, baddest city of all, surely I can do it here. And judging from what I saw last week in London, it could be good for more than just my health!
Picture from Cycling Weekly.co.uk
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