London is making every effort to become more bike-friendly. The mayor has personally championed the creation of ‘bicycle highways’ and dozens of safe bike paths have been built in and around the city in recent years. Bicycles can now be rented everywhere, making London the ideal city for a family bike tour. It’s great exercise, economical and lets you see the city in a totally different way.
Who would have thought it possible only a few years ago – London by bike? No, thanks. But the British capital is rapidly taking on a bike-friendly image. The somewhat eccentric mayor Boris Johnson has unfolded ambitious plans to create bicycle highways in the city, aimed at convincing the millions of commuters once and for all to leave their car at home. London currently has dozens of bike rental companies and a public ‘White Bicycle Plan’ that is particularly convenient for visitors.
There are various routes that can easily be taken with children, like the lovely 27-kilometre route called the Thames Cultural Cycling Tour along all kinds of architectural sights. It takes you from South Bank to the historic district of Rotherhithe and the Royal Observatory in Greenwich. You then cross the Thames through a vaulted tunnel (opened back in 1843), bike through the business district of Canary Wharf and, finally, cross the Tower Bridge, taking you back to South Bank. A route map can be downloaded in various formats, even as a poster.
Safety is important. London is obviously more crowded than many other cities. It is important that both children and adults wear a helmet, not only due to possible traffic hazards, but also since not every path offers smooth riding. A bicycle bell is mandatory and, after sunset, reflective clothing and bicycle lighting is required. Finally, it can’t hurt to check all bikes for properly working brakes before you set out on your tour.
London has a cyclists’ association called London Cycling Campaign. Cycling tours held on special days or tours with special themes are announced on their website. On the last Friday of every month, hundreds of Londoners get on their bikes for a group cycling trip through the city. The entire family can join this ‘Critical Mass Ride’, a great way to explore the city in a unique way. The website also contains a tool for putting together the perfect cycling route between various departure and arrival points in the city. http://lcc.org.uk/