Life of a Commuter/Don’t be a helmet

I have been commuting by bike to work now for a while and I am still really loving it, despite the fact that I started in the cold and wet winter months.

I am really enjoying the bike right now so this probably comes as no surprise that I am loving the opportunity to get some extra miles in by swapping the train for the bike.  However, it is very different and I don’t think I was ready for just how different it would be from my usual cycling.  I am used to cycling with my cycling club, Romford CC, and tri club, Havering Tri.

I cycle with a friend from my cycling club who has been commuting by bike for over 20 years so I am in good company!  Plus hes a lovely man and if there is wind he is the perfect wind breaker (such a gentleman).  The bulk of the journey is on the CS3 cycle path into London though this does run along a main road so not exactly a scenic route but does make it easy to follow and off the road too.

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However, I have some gripes!  There are cycle paths to make things easier for both cyclists and pedestrians so it is annoying when people choose to walk in the cycle path especially as there is an ample pathway right next to it.  I have put a bell on my bike so I can alert people and have had people screaming at me to get off the path and that cycling on the path is illegal – its a cycle path and most definitely not illegal.  I was taken off my bike the other week by someone telling what looked to be an animated story who then decided to jump on the cycle path and promptly send me flying.  It was a complete accident on his part and I am fine (and my bike) but his initial reaction was to say I shouldn’t be there and he didn’t know it was a cycle path – it’s a shame its not painted bright blue with white bikes painted at intervals and signs to indicate what it is, oh no wait it is.  Anyway these things happen.

The cycle path often has the most amount of litter, sand, gravel, glass – all sorts on it and I often find myself arriving covered in mud even when it’s been dry!

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There are a million crossings so it is a very stop start journey, which is frustrating but par for the course – I am still using my cleats and sometimes I can understand why people opt for trainers instead.

There is a section that goes behind some trees at one point and you have to cycle between some bollards – this is my least favourite part of the route.  I am always worried I will clip my handle bars on the bollards and it is a lonely little path there where no one can see you!

I’ve learned that my slow bike handling skills are terrible, in fact beyond terrible and I am not entirely convinced there is hope for me yet in this area but time will tell.  Some of the crossings are almost at right angles and as the cycle path has a cement type curb acting as a lip I struggle getting round some without having to manual move my bike round – much to the amusement of my cycling buddy.

Cycling in London is not my favourite.  There is too much going on – too many pedestrians, too many cars, too many cyclists and I would think you either have to be super confident or have more experience than me to be properly comfortable with navigating some of the roads.

Now whilst most of the cyclists are fine there are of course some that are not.  Hence the title of this post don’t be a helmet.  What do I mean by this?  Well not just for commuting to be fair just in general – cyclists get a bad rep and there are some terrible cyclists for sure though there are also some terrible drivers but lets not tar everyone with the same brush.

Why would you not wear a helmet?  Being a member of a cycling club we have a strict rule – no helmet, no ride.  Speaking as someone who had an accident and my helmet saved my head I just don’t understand why anyone would not wear a helmet and actually think they should be a legal requirement.  Yes its not the best look and there are better accessories but its not a fashion show rather a necessity.  I am always so surprised to see people on my commute (and at other times) without a helmet on.  And those little cycling caps? They won’t save your head either.

Light yourself up  – be safe and be seen.

Headphones!  Have a brain – don’t wear headphones whilst cycling it’s just plain dangerous.  I won’t expand on this as I feel its self explanatory.  If you have headphones in and cannot hear how is that safe?!

Red lights – red means stop!  If you are riding on the road you have the same Highway Code rules as any other vehicle.  When I first started commuting I would point this out to people who went through red lights but this was often met with some verbal abuse.  There was a terrible accident outside my work last week where a cyclist went through the red light and was then hit by a van to be taken off in an ambulance.  Think about the van driver too who has to deal with hitting someone through no fault of their own.  It’s careless and dangerous.

Not all cyclists are bad I promise you!

I’m lucky I have great facilities at my office so I have secure locking for my bike and a locker room with really nice showers so this makes the commute really easy and actually no longer than the train journey I used to do.  Plus if there are train delays or strikes – doesn’t effect me if I am going on my bike anyway.

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Some people see commuting as junk miles though I have seen an improvement in my cycling fitness this year and I am sure the commuting miles contribute to that in some way.

Plus I am saving a bit of money by cycling instead of paying train fare everyday and its good for the planet too with zero pollution.

So here’s to many more commuting miles!

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