3 things you may not know about cycling in London

You can get discount in many cycle shops

The LCC as well as the CTC website lists many local bike shops that offer discounts if you are a member. These include Evans Cycles and Cycle Surgery shops. If you frequently buy a lot of cycling gear then it can be worth joining these groups. Of course you can also usually get discount if you brush up on your negotiating skills.


You can legally claim the lane

Whilst it is likely you will get some abuse from motorists you are well within your right to cycle in a prominent position on the road. In fact in many cases this is actually much safer and is advised by many safety groups. Examples of where it is a good idea to do so include junctions so that you can pull out before the car, smaller roads with many parked cars and when overtaking vehicles. Claiming the entire lane prevents cars from completing a dangerous overtaking manoeuvre when there is not enough room to do so. It is also a fantastic way to be seen.

When it comes to using cycle lanes the law is a little hazy. As a general rule if you feel safer using the road rather than the cycle lane then you are free to do so.


The back-roads are often faster and more pleasant

As a cyclist in London the bane of my life is traffic lights. In the majority of cases I end up sitting there while no cars or pedestrians pass. It majorly slows down my journey and the effort required to get a bike up to a good speed from the stopped position is frustrating.

Most of London’s major roads are riddled with traffic lights. So when I know I’m going to be cycling somewhere I like to seek out quieter roads.

A good place to start is a post I put together with a list of cycle route websites that will help you plan an alternative route.

See also:

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13 Responses to 3 things you may not know about cycling in London

  1. Andreas 16/12/2009 at 1:42 pm #

    Forgot to mention the LCC is the London Cycling Campaign who campaign for better cycling conditions for cyclists in London and the CTC is the national cycling organisation who campaign for UK wide better conditions. This blog is not affiliated with either of these.

  2. JonF 16/12/2009 at 2:19 pm #

    Good post. I think a great way to publicise the joy of the minor roads is to ask other commuters to count how many sets of traffic lights they encounter on their commute. For example on my route from Crystal Palace to Surbiton (12 miles) there is only 1 set of lights that I cannot avoid. On those rare ocassions when I am trying to make up some time, I only manage to shave about 2 minutes by going more direct.

    Re cycle lanes, surely they are only mandatory on 1-way streets when cycling against the flow?

  3. Andreas 16/12/2009 at 3:27 pm #

    Thanks JonF, not sure if people would like this post but I got a couple of positive comments on Twitter so that is good πŸ™‚
    Like I said the law is a bit hazy when it comes to cycle lanes but I’m guessing that yes in that scenario common sense would prevail and you would have to be in the cycle lane.

  4. thereverent 16/12/2009 at 5:21 pm #

    This had reminded me to put LCC membership on my christmas list.

    The claiming the lane and cycle path advice is worth repeating, but needs to be drummed into motorists. On monday night at Vauxhall a car was hooting and flashing lights at a cyclist for not being on the cyclepath (where I was) despite there being no dropped curb for him to get on to it. The driver didn’t understand that we can use either. I did consider chasing the car down and having a chat but decided against it as I was in a rush.

    I think the traffic light thing depends on your part of London. Where I live you can’t escape them, and its made worse by one-way systems.
    In an old job my 2 mile cycle to work from North Brixton to Pimlico had 11 sets of light (thats not including pedestrian crossings).

  5. Angi 16/12/2009 at 9:51 pm #

    Nice post. I get abuse from motorists on a daily basis. The roads I cycle on are ridden with Parked cars and so I have to take a prominent position in the road quite often. It’s just a shame drivers do not understand my need to do so. Also the roads I ride on are mostly residential roads (some with bus routes) with a 20mph speed limit…once again, it saddens me that motorists do not understand that one either.
    It’s also distressing that a good handful of the abusive motorists are mothers on the school run…what kind of example are they setting to their kids if they are swearing or yelling at cyclists constantly!
    (I’d also like to add that they really have no need to be driving their kids to school when their journey is usually less than a mile…is it my fault that they got out of the house late? No!).

    What advice do you have for dealing with severely abusive motorists?

    (P.s. I try and do things correctly to be safe and to make it safe for motorists too…I wear high vis clothing, helmet, have lights, signal, thank motorists who give me way and so on…yet the abuse continues)…in my area of West London they seem to hate cyclists and not many provisions are made for cyclists by the council. πŸ™

    • Paul Love 09/10/2017 at 12:43 pm #


      I live in West London too. Nearly knocked off my bike by a learner driver overtaking dangerously close this afternoon. There was no obvious reason for it as it was a red light ahead. I went up and informed the instructor that her student was driving dangerously and not following the rules of the road ie. 1 metre clearance for cyclists. I asked her to apologise and couldn’t even get that, instead I received a round of excuses (the instructors hand was on the wheel!?!?) followed by verbal abuse from the passenger in the back seat.

      It’s like they don’t even realised they’re driving a ton of steel at high speeds.

      I can’t use the bicycle lanes because they are invariably full of cars, I can’t use the pavement because it’s illegal and I can’t use the road because busses and taxi drivers actively try to kill me. It’s madness.

      There needs to be a dedicated

  6. Andreas 18/12/2009 at 9:52 am #

    @thereverent – Agreed, you can’t always choose a different route – works out great if you do manage to find one. Luckily for me to get from swiss cottage into central london there is fantastic route that avoids the busy a road which I hate riding on during busy times (in late evening tends to be fine)

    @Angi – Sounds like you are doing everything right but are still getting a rough deal by motorists! Only thing I could suggest is perhaps try a different route again and see if that makes a different, think you’ve just hit motorists at a high stress time, its a shame they take it out on you. If they are severely abusive I guess all you can do is give them the finger! Perhaps stop and talk to them and just explain its not easy been a cyclist. Unless you feel its going to escalate and then your kinda stuck. Final tip: try your best to ignore them.

  7. Laura Smith 21/12/2009 at 3:47 pm #

    With regards to your point on discount, you can also get discount off a bike purchase with the help of a cycle scheme. This is if your employer is apart of this scheme which helps people who would like to comute to work by bike in financing the purchase.

  8. Andreas 21/12/2009 at 3:53 pm #

    Very good point Laura – I probably should of mentioned that in the top 3 things. The discount includes bike accessories such as lock and lights so you can end up with brand new fully kitted bike for 50% off.

  9. Paul 18/01/2010 at 9:47 pm #

    If I can I try and take a route through one of London’s many parks, they nearly all have a cycle path, are quieter, the air quality is cleaner, there is more room and is often a much better quality ride. The only downside I can think of is it can sometimes be a slightly longer route, small price to pay really.

  10. Andreas 18/01/2010 at 10:11 pm #

    Hey Paul, yeah if there’s a cycle route there I think its worth it. I should probably put together some sort of blog post with all the parks you can and can’t cycle through. Might be of interest to people.

  11. Higgs 05/03/2010 at 8:14 pm #

    Used to cycle along the Uxbridge road, through Shepherds Bush (and the roundabout) and on through Notting Hill into the west end. Found it very stressful when raining as there was no allowance for cyclists and the road would be blocked by buses and cars leaving no space for cyclists.

    The trip home was always worse for some reason (and Friday evenings in the rain a double whammy)

    Spent some time using google maps to look at alternate routes and found one that takes through parts of North Kensington that are much quieter and feels much easier

    Yes it’s about 0.5 miles longer but it actually takes me roughly the same amount of time as there are less traffic lights along the route and the traffic on the roads is pretty light, even when raining.

    Now I always look for the road less travelled. πŸ™‚

    • AS 03/09/2015 at 1:51 pm #

      Hi Higgs, Can you share the route you found please? I use the same route (Shepherds Bush roundabout and Uxbridge road) and it can be quite stressful. Many thanks!

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