Cycling in London is great, obviously. There are some great cycle superhighways along with quiet roads and an increasingly large offering of cycling infrastructure. However, sometimes getting from A to B can require some intricate route planning. A route can seem straight-forward along main roads, but not actually be that nice to travel along, or especially quick.
Therefore, sometimes it is best to spend some time figuring out which way to go to avoid excessive traffic, red lights and pollution. When I lived in Archway and cycled into Covent Garden daily, I had a great route that I had honed over months to be as nice as possible. I have started doing that since I moved to East London and have to cycle to various other areas of East London, but it is still very much a work in progress.
I found a new route at the weekend and in the process discovered a lovely stretch of protected cycle lane I was unaware of and shaved a good 10 mins of a regular journey, all while adding in a lovely park traverse.
These tips will hopefully be helpful for those just starting to cycle around London as well as seasoned cycle commuters.
Really the best way to find a new route is to cycle around the roads between your location and destination. This can be through trying different roads each commute, or by riding around the area at the weekend when you have some time. The later option can also lead to some excellent pub/cafe discoveries!
A really good route may require patience to find, many of mine involve a lot of turns and are seemingly incredibly complicated but once you get used to them it becomes second nature. The upside of riding around so many roads is that if you need to change your route at the last minute because of traffic or road closures.
In the coming weeks we will be outlining some of our favourite cut throughs in North, Central and West London. A cut through can be any little side road, park, or cycle lane that makes your journey just that little bit quicker or nicer.
These cut throughs often need to be found by exploring or spending a little time looking closely at Google maps. I have often found a little short cut or quiet route by getting lost or turning off a main road in the wrong place!
Parks and Canals
London has a lot of parks and green spaces for such a big city. It’s nice to get off the roads If you can, and make use of the parks on your route to and from work. There are often specific cycle routes that will go through or take your near some of the larger parks.
The canals provide some great traffic free cycling, which can possibly make your commute quicker. Cycling along the canals can also provide some great wildlife viewing opportunities. The main downside of them is that they are so popular that they can get a little congested during peak times.
Tech to help
CycleStreets is a useful website that allows you to enter a starting point and end point for your journey. You can also add in your average speed and it will estimate how long the route will take. If you select moderate speed or quietest route, it will direct you on smaller side roads and try to avoid traffic lights and large junctions.
The directions it provides are in very detailed chunks with maps provided for each close-up section. Other details it provides include the amount of CO2 exposure you can avoid by taking the route suggested rather than the main road. Finally, it also marks up the designated cycle routes, both local and national.
Bike hub uses the same route planning software and apps. The two sites are a little clunky and they don’t always give you the best route available from A to B but they are good places to start and certainly point out side roads you may not have noticed before.
Google Maps is a good place to start route planning, but it can get a little sketchy in places. It is great if you want to most direct route available. As you can manually alter the suggested route, it can be a good way of finding out how long the journey will take you. This feature is really accurate when you cycle with a phone logged into a Google account.
If you are looking to finesse a route and pick some smaller, nicer streets to cycle along, the CleanSpace app is a great tool. The app shows you the current pollution level on a street level basis. If you are happy cycling along main roads and see no reason to switch up your route on a regular basis, this app can help you find slightly nicer routes on heavy pollution days. If you want to go even further and track your precise exposure, you can buy a tag to go along with the app. The tag measures your exposure to pollution and is powered by space mobile phone signals – pretty awesome.
What are your favourite route planning tips? Have you found a great new route through one of the methods above? Let us know!
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As seen on The Guardian, BBC and The Independent.