One of the best ways to see a large city is on a bicycle. For someone with my level of fitness, this means taking a bike onto a train then spending the day exploring, remembering of course to take regular breaks. It was the last day before Ramadan so I had to take my chance despite the forecasted wet weather.
London back in the eighties was not the best place to ride a bike, it was too smokey for a start! It’s changed a lot since then, and whilst it’s not the most cycle-friendly city, once you’re in the right places: parks, bus lanes and side roads, it’s a real pleasure.
If you get to the parks early enough in the morning, you will have the whole area to yourself, sharing it occasionally with another cyclist or jogger. It’s hard to imagine that you’re in one of the busiest cities i the world, when you’re riding through beautiful and long tree-lined lanes.
The convenience of having your bike magically appear in the city is now available to all, via the new Barclays bike hire scheme. I can’t believe it’s taken this long for London to introduce them. I used them in Copenhagen in 1997! The fact that they’re here however, means more and more cycle lanes will be available and drivers will naturally become more vigilant of their two-wheeled fellows. This should address the only concern left for riders, namely safety.
Back to photography… I love using a bike to explore a city because of the vast area you can cover, the relative ease with which you can stop, and the flexibility it provides you to wait when necessary. You can stop virtually anywhere and for as long as you need at zero cost and almost without inconvenience.
One of my favourite lessons in photography is the waiting involved in getting the perfect shot. For the image below, I was standing next to my bike taking shot after shot – until I finally got the birds in focus.
Because there is no rush to get to the car before the meter runs out, or to catch a bus to the next location, you own your time. I spent a little more time in the area near London Eye, and was rewarded with the sight of the boat pulling the containers. I moved on to capture more of London.
With time on my side, I was able to make small discoveries that I would have otherwise missed. The colourful Buxton Memorial has been here for years but it was the first time I had ever noticed it.
The weather cleared up so I decided to head home without the train. I cycled west to Battersea Power Station. The plan was to continue to Fulham, Hammersmith then home to Ealing.
The weather had other plans and it started raining heavily. I took a break at a lovely little restaurant in Chelsea. The wood of the old furniture inside looked nice and dry – just the remedy for my wet clothes and camera bag. I took a lunch break waiting for the rain to ease.
This was the view when I came back. It got even more wet so I looked for the nearest train station – where I joined a few other ‘lazy’ cyclists.
I took the train and cycled the last two miles under heavy rain, which was not much fun. My day ended with another surprise discovery. The flyover in the distance is the M4 elevated section over the Chishwick Roundabout. When I lived in London, this was the start and finish of my daily commute to work. I never knew – and probably would never have known – that Jayne Mansfield woz ere in 1959.