5 In fitness

Cycling in big cities – your commute is NOT a race & black kit makes you invisible

Once upon a time I was into cycling big time. For 6 years I rode my Giant road bike to work and back every single day. On weekends I’d do 20km+ loops around Lake Burley Griffin in Canberra and a few times I even took part in races.

When we moved to London almost 9 years ago I stopped cycling. London traffic and streets are insane. There is not much room for cyclists and parked cars everywhere on the side of the roads I do not like (I was once taken out by a car door that a driver swung open without checking oncoming traffic first).

In absence of cycling I became a runner. Something I never said I’d become because I thought why would I run if cycling is so much faster! 🙂

I have missed my bike a lot though so I’m finally getting back into cycling. Thankfully I live in an area of London that is only 10km from Richmond Park – that 10km I’m willing to ride in traffic since it’s mostly bigger/wider streets.

My husband cycles to work on most days and I’m so happy that he’s put his racing days behind him and cycles carefully AND by obeying traffic rules. He also looks like a Christmas tree year round – bright and flashy without any shame 🙂

These days I see way too many cyclists not only madly racing from one traffic light to another but also wearing black from head to toe. Point of my post – slow down and make yourself visible.

Here’s a cool infographic about cycling tips specifically for winter:

Cycle Safety

Source: http://www.lv.com/life-cover/lv-love-life/lifestyle/winter-cycling-tips

I would add to the list:

  • Clear or yellow tinted glasses – they protect your eyes from cold wind.
  • Head band to cover your ears.
  • Shoe covers (essential!)
  • Cover for your backpack, if you’re commuting with a bag. Most road bikes, like mine, do not come with mud guards so your behind gets quite muddy in the winter, hence the need to protect your bag.

Are you a brave soul who cycles in a big city? Do you have any other tips for staying warm and safe in the winter?



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  • Reply
    Tess @ FitBits
    October 31, 2014 at 6:21 am

    Great post. I cycle to work every day in Brighton and our city is much more optimised for cyclists, with cycle lanes everywhere. This doesn’t make it completely safe for the morning commute though, the traffic is mental and on a daily basis I see stupid cyclists/drivers. Cyclists without lights, helmets, hi vis, jumping lights, going up the left side of buses and lorries. Drivers cutting us up, squeezing across the left so we can’t get past at the lights. I’m a careful and competent cyclist but I’d never do it in London that’s for sure!

    • Reply
      November 12, 2014 at 10:00 am

      Just saw your comment in the spam folder 🙁 Brighton is a bit hilly, no? Must be great for the legs though 🙂 I have to say I’m relieved every time I go for a ride and get home in one piece. That is half the traffic’s fault and half the fault of the hills in Richmond Park!

  • Reply
    October 30, 2014 at 10:17 am

    I have been commuting by bike in London for 2 years and my approach is… slightly different to what you suggest:) I do agree on slowing down and needing bike lights though!

    My main point is: I’m not training for Tour de France, I’m trying to get to work/to gym/my grocery shopping done/home (usually all of the above during the same day). Therefore I ride my bike in my work clothes, which more often than not means a dress and high heels. No special underwear, shoe covers or, God forbid, anything on my head! Waterproofs? Yes, if it’s raining, I wear my rain jacket. The one that matches my dresses. The colour is nowhere near hi-vis, it’s dull red:)

    I ride slowly enough – we don’t want to get sweaty now, do we, in our nice office dress?:) I have a white front light and a red back light on. And I take up a lot of space on the road – I just have that kind of bike (wide handlebars, huge basket – where would I otherwise put my handbag? and gym bag? and groceries? I normally don’t do bacpacks, they don’t match my dress and coat.)

    (ah, did I mention my coat? if it’s “cold”, i.e. cold London terms, around 0C, I wear a coat. it’s BLACK. but it’s got bright green lining and it’s got pictures of clowns and acrobats on it. I can assure you, I DO get noticed:))

    In short, I’m slow, assertive, noticeable in my own way but thoroughly unlike a Christmas tree.

    And guess what? While all my roadbiker, Tour-de-France-training, Christmas-tree-looking colleagues keep reporting near misses, accidents and conflicts with aggressive drivers… the biggest problem I have when commuting is that people keep putting their rubbish in my bike basket while it’s parked on the street. OK, the worst was really when my bike was stolen. But I can honestly say I’ve never felt unsafe when cycling in London! (Nor cold. I dress for the weather. Just as I would do when walking.)

    • Reply
      October 30, 2014 at 11:57 am

      Great, great tips! How long is your commute, by the way? I cannot imagine cycling in a dress and heels in London. In Amsterdam or Copenhagen maybe 🙂 I think you’re especially spot on about being slow and assertive. If you’re weaving in and out of traffic and/or parked cars and do not occupy a proper size of the road then near misses are bound to happen.
      I do hope you wear a helmet though. I know it messes up the hair but I think it’s the nr.1 must when cycling.
      PS. Send me a picture of you and your bike and your coat with clowns! 🙂

      • Reply
        October 30, 2014 at 12:42 pm

        To be fair, my commute is only 7 km and it takes me 30 min:) not sure if I’d be willing to spend twice or three times as much time every morning and evening…

        Oh, the helmet… I don’t want to get into an argument here as I do know and accept why people think helmets are necessary. However, I don’t wear one when commuting. Not so much because of my hair (I wear a helmet when motorcycling, rollerblading or riding a bike cross-country, in the woods)… but, see, in my head I’m sort of offering a contract to all the drivers and other people around me. The contract goes sth like:

        “See, I’m not coming, prepared for a battle for my life. Therefore I’m not armed or armoured. I’m not expecting you to kick me off my bike, injure or kill me. In return, you can expect me to act in a predictable way – I promise I won’t make unexpected maneuvres, I’ll look over my shoulder and indicate when I’m about to turn or overtake somebody, I’ll respect the red traffic lights (except when it’s a pedestrian crossing with no pedestrians in sight:))… in short, I won’t give you a reason to try and kill me, and I also won’t try and kill myself.”

        This seems to be working well – as I said, I don’t get into conflicts with other road users. It’s like I’m wearing an invisible bubble of Netherlands around me, about 2.5m in diameter:) (This may be true also elsewhere than on a bike – whenever people try to guess my nationality, the first guess is always Dutch!)

        As for this picture, I keep waiting for a streetstyle-blogger to turn up and ask for my permission to take a picture of me on my bike! The moment this happens, you get the link! (It DID happen once, in Tallinn, during the Song Festival, when I was riding in my full national costume. But I forgot to ask where I could see the picture:()

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