At first it was a happy accident, a few wrong turns on my first cycle to work, and I stumbled across Oxford Circus. For the first time as a London resident and not a tourist. It was a mistake I was glad to make.
Three months after moving to London, my bike was stolen. I bought a second hand bike near Finsbury Park and didn’t plan a route home. I stopped to ask for directions, ended up the wrong way, got rained on. I couldn’t of been happier.
After two hours, I eventually arrived home near Tower Bridge. My knowledge of London, greatly expanded.
I started to more actively seek out these discoveries. I’d slow down on my route to observe more, I’d purposefully ride a different route back, choosing to go only in the general direction of home.
Down little alleys and back roads, it’s amazing what you’ll find.
I’ve even used the CycleStreets route planner in the past, playing mind games, trying to memorise the route in my mind before setting off. Right on to Ashland Pl, Moxon Street, left on Marylebone High Street. Inevitably, I’d get lost after 10 or so turns. Which was the plan all along.
I’ve come across some of my favourite spots in London whilst lost. Quiet parks nobody uses, interesting looking little cafes and pubs that I bring my friends to later.
I couldn’t do this in any city. London’s seemingly unplanned road network is conducive to a meandering route. After the Great Fire in 1666 levelled much of the capital, Wren submitted designs for a more sensible, grid-like road system. Fortunately, they were rejected.
I crave the feeling of discovery, serendipity and wonderment. Those moments where I stumble across interesting graffiti on a side street in Shoreditch, or a road with nobody around and a shortcut I’ll be using all the time – they give me comfort, as I make London my own, by getting to know its little quirks and secrets.
What have you stumbled across on your bike rides?