What London’s cyclists thought of the tube strike

London's cyclists beating the tube strike

During yesterdays tube strike the media inevitably turned their attention to cycling as a way of getting to work. This provided some great publicity for cycling and the BBC even invited me in to talk about it. To get there I cycled through the mayhem of rush hour. I thought it was pretty mad out there – buses, cars and people all tangled up in a huge mess trying to get home. Traffic signs were being ignored, cars were waiting in no stopping zones and cyclists were jumping red lights in droves.

This is also one of the first things the BBC reporter asked me about. As I sad down in one of those rooms with a green background, pulled the microphone under my shirt and decided between the background of Big Ben or London. I opted for London in the end. “Cyclists are quite famous for jumping red lights aren’t they?” My well rehearsed defence: “Actually, only a small minority of cyclists jump red lights, they are usually the ones you notice”. I was hoping they would ask me about how to cycle safely as new cycling commuters often don’t know the tricks of the trade. But no such luck.

I asked on Twitter yesterday what London Cyclist’s thought of the tube strike and if they spotted any new cyclists:

sweek0 @londoncyclist it was bloody busy. More cyclists than I’ve ever/seen more cars too. Many were clearly inexperienced and rode close to curb

sukeyyy @londoncyclist More (smug) cyclists for sure! And I saw one guy in a suit sprinting to get the last Boris bike in the rack.

phototropy @londoncyclist Lots more cyclists! I ended up escorting a lawyer on a Borisbike, simply because he didn’t have a clue how to get to work.

nicobobinus @londoncyclist probably double the usual number coming in through Holloway and Camden Town. Seemed to be more red lights jumped than usual!

mculmer @londoncyclist yes, lots of new cyclists on hire bikes to close to pavement. Too many cars jostling for that extra inch & lots of motorbikes using bike lanes more than usual

OxfordSpring @londoncyclist More folk on mountain bikes, wide sweeping turns and a distinct lack of proper rain kit.

suspectpackage @londoncyclist closest i’ve come to blows with another cyclist this morning but looked like he was a regular 🙁

petermeanwell @thefinalform @londoncyclist mainly mega traffic but a few more wobblers, and lots more people trying to jump lights – but didn’t know how!

chthonicionic @londoncyclist Lots of cyclists + nice bikes/lycra but with no experience of riding in heavy traffic – undertaking lorries + on pavement

meincken @londoncyclist a few near misses which scared even me, and lack of respect for other road users! Tube strike can’t end quick enough!

tobycastle @londoncyclist Even at 7am definitely more bikes. Some rusty & definitely more wobbly. Also many more rucksack runners panting along.

my1minuterant @londoncyclist Seemed a few more people up for a race (Lycra Warriors), maybe not woked it all out of their system.

commentisfree @londoncyclist loads more nOObies. "Experienced" commuters can be just as much as a pain in the a$$ though, so I kept quiet…

And so as another tube strike comes to and end hopefully we will have some more cyclists join us on London road’s. Be nice to them guys!

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34 Responses to What London’s cyclists thought of the tube strike

  1. Mike (chthonicionic) 08/09/2010 at 11:54 am #

    God we sound like a bunch of smuggies, don’t we?

    I tried to be as polite as possible when stopping people from going down the inside of articulated lorries at the lights. Most were grateful and chatted once the lorry moved and they saw the problem they almost got into.

    Next strike, I’m taking Haribo and will hand out sweeties to newbies.

    • Andreas 08/09/2010 at 11:57 am #

      Leading the way Mike 😉

      My buddy Dave cycled into work all the way over in Canary Wharf he says after he felt the most awake in ages. They even let him go home early so as not to cycle in the dark – the many advantages of cycling..

    • kathryn 10/09/2010 at 2:55 pm #

      awesome idea!!lets all do it.get a haribo movement going.

      • kathryn 10/09/2010 at 2:55 pm #

        er, the haribo thing. It’s linked to the post below, sorry.

  2. Andrew 08/09/2010 at 12:02 pm #

    The traffic was so bad I got hit my a taxi on Chiswick High Road. I don’t think it helped that there were more cars and more cyclists – everyone was more in a rush and more keen to avoid rush hour, probably why this guy pulled out without looking. Ouch!

    Helmet saved me from a lot worse – let that be a lesson!

    • wee folding bike 09/09/2010 at 11:26 pm #

      You don’t know that, why did you state it?

      Have you done a properly controlled experiment on this?

      Would you accept that I’ve fallen off with no helmet and survived as proof that you don’t need one?

      • jonny 17/09/2010 at 11:39 am #

        i came off at speed earlier in the year and hit my head on the kerb – it put a 1cm dent in my helmet.

        cant imagine what state id have been in without a bash-hat on!

        on the plus side it got rid of the crick in my neck. nearly broke three limbs though.

        and landed on my keys. ouchie.

  3. prj45 08/09/2010 at 12:08 pm #

    Deleted! // Language!

    • prj45 08/09/2010 at 5:36 pm #

      Sorry, just expressing my anger at cyclist berating other cyclists for being noobs!

  4. Nick 08/09/2010 at 12:15 pm #

    I took the busiest road I could home to avoid the panic of other riders (Picadilly was a dream until I got to the circus), it was nice because most of the traffic was stationary and not many cyclists due to it being a busier road. I’m all for people getting on the road and riding but seriously, you have to consider other road users, the highway code and personal safety, it made me angry watching some very stupid people jump a busy set of lights for no real gain! But to be honest the pedestrian traffic was a little harder as well, I often wonder if people actually even bother looking both ways anymore?

    I was informed by a fellow cyclist who rides the CS3 into work that he saw a fair few casualties of cycling. I think all riders should at least attend a cycling proficiency class and perhaps possibly a little bike maintenance wouldn’t go a miss… I could hear some cyclists before I saw them, which isn’t right!

    • Kunglu 08/09/2010 at 12:56 pm #

      Nick, I couldn’t agree more!

    • chriszanf 10/09/2010 at 10:19 am #

      Unfortunately, the cycling proficiency is being scrapped rather than renewed and strengthened.

      I found the pedestrian traffic was more pronounced but the amount of people who stepped out into traffic without looking remained about the same.

  5. Mike 08/09/2010 at 12:16 pm #

    I rode to work earlier than normal to try and avoid the worst of it, and there were noticeably more cyclists out there, even at 7:30.

    Didn’t see anything too untoward with the riding, apart from a few people who looked a bit wobbly.

    On a related note, has anyone actually ever done a published survey about red light jumping? There are a couple of junctions on my way to work that get jumped a lot, I’d say by the majority of cyclists, unfortunately.

  6. Sarina 08/09/2010 at 12:53 pm #

    I reckon people must have thought I was a ‘noob’ yesterday – the increase in scooters, inexperienced cyclists and open top convertibles with just one bloody banker in made me quite wobbly and nervous. It took me twenty minutes longer to get home as I was did a lot more waiting behind stationary traffic then the over taking (NOT undertaking) that I usually do).

    The worst was on the way to work, two seperate incidents made me cycle the rest of the way with my mouth hanging open. A man jumped out of a taxi into (literally) the middle of the road, swung his bag around and onto his shoulders and walloped me round the head.

    The second was a woman was stood on the pavement, obviously a bit stressed, and vomitted onto the road and onto my bike!

    It took a lot of courage for me to cycle back home yesterday.

    • Andreas 08/09/2010 at 8:12 pm #

      Sarina – tough cycle! Couldn’t believe the bit about the woman womitting – had to read that twice! Hope no more incidents now things have calmed down

      • Sarina 08/09/2010 at 8:44 pm #

        I’m sure it’s uphill from here (although downhill would be more appropriate for us cyclists!). At least I trumped all of my colleagues with their nightmare commute stories!

  7. thereverent 08/09/2010 at 3:17 pm #

    I had a very enjoyable ride both to and from work.
    Loads more cyclist on the road which was nice to see. Few people riding badly, most enjoying the large pellaton along CS7.
    The traffic was mostly stationary, often due to cars, vans and buses blocking box junctions. The A3/A23 junction in the morning rush hour was so bad only cyclist could get through, even motorbikes were stuck.
    There was a large increase in lemming pedestrians, I’ve never had so many people step out in front of me without looking/looking the wrong way. I can only assume they don’t walk around in London much normally.

  8. chris 08/09/2010 at 5:06 pm #

    Definitely more bikes and *definitely* more people who were clueless as to how to ride in traffic and, as importantly, how to ride considerately in a group.

    As someone who’s ridden for years in pelotons, on club rides and just generally in groups who know what they’re doing, some of the n00bs scared me yesterday: both from a blatant sense of danger, but also that it is their behaviour who drivers and other road users will remember.

    It’s not a race track out there but n00bs see people riding fast and assume it is, not to mention the queueing at lights (let’s leave the jumping and skirting down on pavements alone in this comment). You wouldn’t jump the queue when getting your coffee when you get to work? Why do it when queuing for the lights?

    I’m generally happy to wait my turn – I’m faster than most and I’ll let my speed do the talking when the lights go red, but the amount of queue-ignorance and just pure bad manners was simply staggering.

    After almost 20 years and over 40000 miles on London’s roads, it is clearly a better place to cycle now than in the early 90s when I started regularly riding here. I’m afraid, though, that we’re in danger of seeing a backlash if the general level of bike nouse doesn’t increase. We might have safety in numbers, but we’re going see more clampdowns and rules because we obviously can’t control ourselves.

  9. Mark 08/09/2010 at 9:52 pm #

    Might have been worth making the point to the reporter that plenty of car, van, lorry drivers jump red lights too. In fact, I’d be very surprised if the percentage of drivers who do so isn’t more than 16% (TfL’s figure for cyclists).

    The main difference of course (other than the fact that drivers usually have a ton or more of metal under their right foot) is that drivers generally accelerate to go through a light on red.

  10. Juleslostinlondon 08/09/2010 at 9:56 pm #

    lots of people who don’t normally ride a bike, combined with lots of people who don’t normally drive in central london, with lots of added lost pedestrians makes for an interesting journey.

    Mostly ok, but a few hairy moments – i decided to take a zen approach and not rush any part of the journey. this meant that lots of nice bus drivers and cabbies let me through spaces i would never normally have even attempted. even with a bandana over my face because of the nasty fumes (last year was worse i think, but i didn’t want a repeat of the throwing up because of pollution thing!).


    • Dani Riot 09/09/2010 at 3:57 pm #

      I got myself stuck cycling on the A501 yesterday.

      The fumes were amazingly bad.

  11. Mark H. 08/09/2010 at 10:02 pm #

    Might have been worth making the point to the reporter that plenty of car, van, lorry drivers jump red lights too. In fact, I’d be very surprised if the percentage of drivers who do so isn’t more than 16% (TfL’s figure for cyclists).

    The main difference of course, other than the fact that they usually have a ton or more of metal under their right foot, is that drivers generally increase their speed to go through a light which has just changed from amber.

    Which do you think is more dangerous?

  12. Colette 08/09/2010 at 11:28 pm #

    What a week to have a tube strike… with a whole new generation of school run mums on the road driving irresponsibly – to add to the mix a whole load of clueless and nervous cyclists!

    I saw one chap dive down a space in between a bus and a car which was obviously not big enough to fit through. He jiggled his bike through breaking some poor chap’s wing mirror and cycled off. I was ashamed and would have apologised on behalf of all good cyclists if the car hadn’t turned off.

    Saw awful newbies on old bikes – no lights, no reflectives at night, no helmets. Parked at lights smack bang across the pedestrians crossing. People cycling about 1 foot from my back wheel and sometimes even over-lapping me and slightly to my right. Such a nightmare! So dangerous!

    Took me an extra 15 mins each way to get to and from work 11 miles away. FUMING! Does make me wonder whether it was the presence of so many cars carrying one person that made it so damn long though.

  13. AJ 09/09/2010 at 9:11 am #

    New commuters should be encouraged even if annoying. After two weeks I’m sure they’d be much better – if they kept it up.

    • chris 09/09/2010 at 9:41 am #


      We moan and complain, but I’ve no doubt that London’s roads are a better cycling environment now than 20 years ago, and that’s done in no small part to the much larger number of cyclists.

      It’s still not perfect, mind, but we’re never go to agree on what that means …

    • Sarina 09/09/2010 at 1:27 pm #

      I do agree – but I’m always concerned about cyclists ignoring the highway code and maintaining that terrible reputation that cyclists have to pedestrians and motorists, that we’re ‘menaces’ that cycle on the pavement, through red lights etc.

      Anyway, cycled in today and yesterday and had a lovely ride! I hope that some of the people who cycled for the first time this Tuesday continue. Safety in numbers

  14. James 10/09/2010 at 11:03 am #

    I got my first ever puncture on my commute on Tuesday. I think it was punishment for feeling smug about my colleagues having to take convoluted bus routes into work.

    Didn’t find it much busier on the roads than usual, but then I cycle across south London and there isn’t much tube down these parts.

  15. Tina 10/09/2010 at 11:06 am #

    Yes, there were probably about 50% more cyclists than usual, and I couldn’t do my usual max speed through Hyde Park as it was just one huge queue of cyclists. But think of the possibilities! If all these people cycled everyday, cyclists would be a group of traffic that can’t be marginalized anymore, and cycling provisions would need to improve to cater for us! I hope that many of those newbies will keep at it, they will improve with experience, as did I.

  16. To-jo 10/09/2010 at 11:56 am #

    I didn’t cycle on Tuesday but I did cycle on Thursday and there was a lot more cyclists than normal and I’ve not seen such bad riding since I did the London to Brighton last year (never again..!!!). Courtesy was reduced to zero. I overtook somebody and then 30 metres later they were right next to me on my righthand side squeezing between me and traffic. I am normally zen like on a bike but it was starting to cheese me off. If this continues, I think I am more likely to have an accident with another cyclist than any other road user. I cycle to get away from the rat race, screw you, out of my way mentality and now these people are on bikes now…..hopefully they will learn to leave that mentality behind and adopt the cyclist culture and treat each other with respect.

  17. Maria 10/09/2010 at 1:30 pm #

    I noticed more inept cyclists, one girl rode on the wrong side of the road and seemed to be looking at the pavement so we nearly collided. I did feel like I had more near misses with cyclists than usual and there were a lot more jay walking pedestrians as I cycled through Liverpool street.

  18. Pete 15/09/2010 at 8:43 pm #

    I had man-flu and couldn’t cycle.

    The train-bus-walk-bus-bus-bus commute to work took 3.5 hours.

    Travel to and from a midday install (bus-walk, then bus-bus-bus) took 2 hours each way.

    The commute home (overland-overland) took 1 hour 40 mins.

    I was sweating and feeling crappy all day. It was truly grim.

  19. Anne 16/09/2010 at 12:39 pm #

    couldn’t ride my bike that day….hated having to be pushy and aggressive on the trains just to get to work!

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