Bonjour! Dottie and I are blogging from our Paris hotel room. But we couldn’t wait to talk a little bit about London, where we shared Sunday evening pints at The Harp with delightfully witty and friendly readers Fred & Liz. Both are native(ish) Londoners, so they gave us a local take on cycling in the city. Apparently there are vast differences between the boroughs when it comes to infrastructure—and cycling gets better the further east in London you go. The money savings on transport here is huge: one way on the tube costs 2 pounds, so choosing to bike gets you more than freedom from the crowded tube.
Fred, Dottie, Liz & me
Also exciting: how we got there!
The bike rental system was about as easy to figure out as any bike rental system we’ve used in the past. Hardest part was getting the bikes free from the kiosk, really! And of course it was virtually free: one pound for a one-day pass, and the first 30 minutes of each rental is free. Our first stop was here: For this
Equal parts delight and intimidation in that expression, don’t you think?
Then we got back on the bikes for a ride around St. Paul’s before heading to the Harp.
The ride was pretty relaxing for the most part, beginning on quiet streets with well-designed bike lanes. After a couple of miles, we ended up on The Strand for a few blocks with approximately half a million double-decker buses. That’s when we dismounted and walked our bikes on the sidewalk.
Obviously, we didn’t conduct a complete tour of London by bike, but our brief experience felt very different from our experience as cycling tourists in Paris, where many of the main through-roads seemed to have infrastructure for cyclists.
London felt more like Nashville in the sense that big roads are the worst for cycling—but when you’re in a city you aren’t familiar with that is not set up on a grid, it’s pretty difficult to navigate using smaller streets that would require frequent turns, even when you have a Moleskin City Guide map strapped in front of you. :-) If London wants to make cycling more appealing for tourists—especially those who are not used to bicycling in a big city—it should make the major boulevards more bike friendly.
So as I mentioned a couple of months ago, Dottie and I will be traveling to London, Paris and Amsterdam together this fall. London readers, would you join us for the Very First LGRAB Overseas Happy Hour at The Harp Bar in Covent Garden* for a pint on Sunday, October 14? We’ll be there between 5pm and 7pm, most likely on some sort of two-wheeled conveyance.
We’re so excited to have the chance to meet more of you in person! Let us know in the comments if you can make it! Cheers.
Happy Monday! Here are a few bike-related links I’ve discovered and enjoyed over the past few days.
HerStoria magazine has a piece on the early days of women and bikes. Though there’s nothing groundbreaking here, it’s a good overview of the questions that cycling raised around the turn of the century—and a reminder that a backlash for challenging norms is nothing new.
Would these ‘free’ or ‘new’ bicycling women become sexually outré and masculinised , turning their backs on traditional family values and undermining the natural authority of men? If so, such daring women were nothing short of a threat to the well-being of the race and of the nation as a whole.
The July issue of the Atlantic has a piece on the London cycling scene by one of my favorite authors, Lionel Shriver, who tackles the subject with her typical contrarian charm.
Cycling was once my little secret. While the clueless lavished fortunes on train tickets, car repairs, and taxis, I saved a bundle. I got my exercise, while the proles, after a prolonged, miserable journey home, had to face another trip, to a stuffy, jam-packed gym.
My secret is out.
But she’s not rejoicing about this: for Shriver, cycling hell is other cyclists. More specifically, London cyclists, whom she says are more “cutthroat, vicious, reckless, hostile, and violently competitive” than those in America or Europe. If you’ve ever contemplated the dark side of achieving critical mass, and then felt guilty for it—read this piece.
Lawmakers had the opportunity to achieve transformative change. They didn’t seize it.
And finally, Lovely Bicycle had a thoughtful post on women and food. Though I’ve never counted calories, this disconnect between hunger and the need for nourishment that begins when you get older—and the anxiety it can cause—struck a chord with me:
At age 12, feeling hungry simply meant I needed to eat something. But by age 22, this connection had become severed. There was nervous hunger, cravings for comfort food during all the endless studying, emotional eating.
What links have you enjoyed this week? Share in the comments.
p.s. Our e-newsletter is delayed this month, but we promise delivery later today!