It’s been over a year since I bought my Brompton folding bicycle to help cope with my long-distance commute from Eastbourne. I have to admit there was a steep learning curve to get the complex folding system (there is only one way to do it right – but lots of ways to do it wrong). And adapting to the hyper-sensitive steering (which does become something of an advantage once mastered), took much longer. But apart from these early niggles, the bike has been a joy to own and use.
So let’s start with a list of negatives from a year in the saddle:
- The almost daily stories of death and injury, often appearing on the cover of Evening Standard, make me question the risks I am taking.
- Having to share the road with tipper trucks, articulated lorries, and buses. They are noisy, big and scary for a cyclist.
- Fellow cyclists who blatantly ignore red lights. I can see the temptation to get going, but they give all of us such a bad name.
- Taxi drivers who squeeze you into the curb. I wonder if it is deliberate, or perhaps they just didn’t they see me? On reflection I would say a combination of their skill and experience, probably means it is a conscious action.
- Teenage scooter drivers with some kind of ‘death-wish’ who cut through the smallest of gaps and swerve across multiple lanes of traffic.
- Pot-holes, which seem to multiply nearer the edge of the road (where I want to cycle), forcing me out into the path of cars and vans.
- Pedestrians with headphones and tunnel vision, determined to cross their patch of road, often right in front of me. They seem entirely oblivious to the world around them.
- Badly thought out and implemented cycle lanes. For instance my daily route takes me over Southwark Bridge with its blue cycle highway. On the bridge I feel nice and safe with a concrete bollard between me and the heavy construction lorries. But coming off the bridge, I have to filter through three lanes of those monsters, praying the lights don’t chance until I get to the safe haven of the cycle box at the front. It is genuinely scary.
- Cobbled back streets. I love the fact that London is steeped in history, but my bottom would appreciate some smoother tarmac please.
That was a bit depressing, so let’s end with some positives from the year of the Brompton:
- Mental health. According to an Evening Standard, one of the best ways of helping to develop a Mindfulness approach to live is to cycle regularly.
- Exercise. I can feel my legs getting stronger and my stomach getting a bit smaller every time I swing my leg over the Brompton’s saddle.
- Surprising pedestrians. My favourite trick is to stop for pedestrians as they step onto a zebra crossing. I usually have to wave them on, as they think it is some kind of trick, having become accustomed to cyclists cutting in front of them.
- Getting to work on time. I can usually get to work five minutes earlier than if I changed trains and relied on Thameslink to get me across central London.
- Knowing I can fold my bike up and get on the tube if necessary. So far I have only been ‘rained off’ once.
- Being able to get from Kings Cross to Oxford Circus in 15 minutes. It’s even quicker than the tube.