Getting around London on a bike can be a challenging and sometimes dangerous proposition. As one of the most traffic-congested cities in Europe, and below the likes of Amsterdam, Berlin and Copenhagen in the bike-friendly stakes, morning commutes require cyclists to be constantly on their guard.
Although steps have been taken to build a culture of riding – such as the mass Sky Rides and the successful Barclays Cycle Hire scheme – motorists still very much rule the roost. Step forward Andreas Kambanis, London resident and creator of the popular London Cyclist blog.
Since 2009 he’s been on a mission, together with regular contributor Nicole Patterson, to encourage people to take to their bikes and explore the English capital the way it should be. Or, as he puts it himself, “to make your everyday cycle that bit more enjoyable”. “It started as a little experiment to try out ‘this blogging thing people are talking about’ but it’s expanded into lots of different areas,” he told BikeRadar.
“It was born out of a frustration with the lack of information for everyday city cyclists, such as myself. I really wanted a non-technical source of friendly advice for my commute. I’m always discovering something new and I want to share it with my fellow cyclists, whether it’s a great new product, a new route or a maintenance tip.”
London Cyclist looks at everything the London, or indeed any, cycle commuter needs to know. Whether it’s posts on repairs, clothing, dealing with aggressive drivers or even turning right on a multi-lane roundabout, the site has it covered. One of the key themes is safety, which is often the barrier that stops people taking the plunge and committing to the bike commute.
A number of recent posts have looked at helmet cameras and how they can be used to record cyclists’ journeys for their own safety. Whether it’s the threat of being struck by a vehicle, or even the vehicle’s driver (demonstrated by a YouTube video posted by Greater Manchester Police this week), it’s an issue for many. “It’s a horrible thought, but it’s far better to be aware of the steps needed if you’re in an accident or if you witness an accident with a cyclist and need to help,” said Kambanis.
Spiralling public transport and fuel costs means travelling around London is an expensive pursuit. Cycling can be the answer to this, but Andreas says people need to be given more assurance they’ll be safe mixing in with traffic. “I’d like to see bike lanes around central London that are separate for cyclists,” he said.
“While a confident rider or someone who’s undertaken cycle training is happy to mingle with traffic there are plenty of people out there who are put off by large vehicles passing too close. Whenever you suggest this, people say, ‘but there’s not enough room to build separate cycle lanes’. I don’t agree with that argument and believe that with lanes closed off to other traffic, more cyclists will take to the road.”
Another barrier to cycling in London is its size – something Andreas has acknowledged with his eBook and GPS route map 30 London Cycle Routes. “I think every London cyclist has at some stage asked themselves, ‘where are the best places to cycle in London?'” he said. I was one of them and I really wanted to go out there and discover the best routes London had to offer. The feedback I’ve had has been fantastic and it really made it worth my time to put together the guide. There are some incredible places to cycle in London and it’s amazing how most people have never heard of them. The guide shows you where all the best routes are – you’ll discover off-road nature routes, quiet lanes and a side of London you never knew existed.”
Kambanis is delighted with the way the site has progressed since 2009. From its humble beginnings with 200 visitors a month, he now receives around 50,000 and he’s hoping that as cycling attracts a bigger audience, so will he. “You only have to stop at any set of traffic lights and see more people waiting beside you to see the growth in cycling as a form of transport,” he said
As for the future, he has plans to move the site on even further. “I’ve got a few more ideas for eBooks,” he added. “And I’d like to travel much more with the bike so I should be bringing some thoughts from other great cycling cities around the world.” To read more from Andreas, visit www.londoncyclist.co.uk.