Cycling across London

Cycling across London on the National Cycle Network

A question that I frequently get asked is:

How do I cycle across London?

The answer is: You get your bike, you climb on to it as your dad taught you when you were little and then cycle across.

Obviously, that isn’t what is really being asked here. The question referrers to how do you go from one side to the other. For example; from the South Coast to the Midlands and beyond.

There’s a couple of great tools that can help you plan cycling routes. Namely Cycle Streets and Bike Hub (iPhone and Android app).

National Cycle Network route 1 cuts through London from North East to South East. It uses the canal network along with on-road cycle paths to do so. There’s also National Cycle Network route 4. This cuts across London from East to West. It will take you via Reading, Bristol, Bath and all the way to Fishguard in Wales.

Are these two routes the fastest way to cycle cross London?

No, you’d be better off plotting a road route. However, you’ll find the cycle along the National Cycle Network far more pleasant.

Are they the easiest way to cycle across London?

Not necessarily. The routes have many turns and it’s easy to miss one of them despite the sign posting. If you are going to follow the routes then it’s definitely worth investing in a map from the Sustans shop coupled with a map holder. Alternatively, you could use your GPS navigation device or mobile phone.

If I was to cycle across London I’d probably plot my own route. That can be done using Google Maps and ticking the option to “Avoid Highways”. You can then tweak the route so that you avoid A roads. This can then be uploaded to your phone or you can print off the turn by turn directions.

You could also use Bike Route Toaster which will plot the most direct route for you and provide you with a basic Cue Sheet. Just make sure you tick the Open Street Map option on the right.

If I personally had the sudden urge to cycle from Birmingham across London and through to Margate I’d probably plot a route that avoids the centre of London. The outskirts near the M25 ring tend to be far more beautiful places to cycle.

If you happen to be unfortunately injured while cycling across London due to a negligent driver, or some other incident, and you want to know more about what you can do about it go talk to one of the law firms in London who can help you discuss things and move forward.

I’ll add a post tomorrow on how you can follow a cycle route as this is something that baffled me when I first started cycling.

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6 Responses to Cycling across London

  1. Fabian 21/03/2012 at 5:21 pm #

    My mother actually taught me how to ride a bike (the papa bear was never that keen on two wheels for some reason)…that point aside Bike Hub works really well on the iphone in my experience, and can on route act like a normal satnav telling you when to turn left/right/do a u-turn etc. Cannot recommend it enough, for in and outside of London.

    It does eat up the battery though and lasts on a full charge for only about 2hrs (on a year old ibone 4).

    • Andreas 21/03/2012 at 6:49 pm #

      Agreed – Used Bike Hub yesterday to get home. Love the route it took me – discovered so many little pubs, cafes and shops I’d like to visit. I listed to the instructions with one of my headphones in the ear (fortunately you can still hear the road as it’s just the standard heaphones that come with the iPhone)

  2. Adam 23/03/2012 at 10:18 am #

    It depends on the time of day. I used to cycle VERY early on a Sunday morning right from Ilford to Richmond and back and it is fantastic to go right through the middle when there are hardly any cars there and cycle wherever you want to 🙂

    • alua 23/03/2012 at 3:57 pm #

      Very true. A lot of times 1/2 of my route (east to central London) is along the canal, but I don’t take that route after dark. Because it’s too dark. I’m worried I’ll end up in the water if I miss a turn. And it’s too creepy. And I’ve heard people got mugged (and actually it’s where that East Enders actress was murdered… I was not surprised – it’s really, really dark on some parts of the canal)

      Also, on really summery days it’s a nightmare to cycle there because there are too many pedestrians. But at 6 am on Saturday morning when I’m going from Victoria Park to Notting Hill, it’s the best route ever!

      Overall I agree with Andreas: you have to sit down and plot your own route. I do that with google maps first and then tweak it when I go out on the road (at least the across-London-rides that I have to do regularly).

  3. Richard 23/03/2012 at 10:24 am #

    Just make sure to include Oxford Street on any route, it’s ‘fun’ especially at weekends

    • RSK 23/03/2012 at 10:52 am #

      Just to those who don’t know, Oxford Street is to be avoided at all costs (or, as in the case of at least one person last year – the cost of their life).

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