One of the best ways to get around London is by bicycle. It is environmentally friendly, it doesn’t have the same level of “sauna” as the underground transport network, and it ensures you understand how the excellent city you are in pieces together, from M by Montcalm Shoreditch London Tech City in the east to Montcalm Marble Arch in the west.
But even a few minutes on the roads in London will show you that you can’t just breeze along in whatever manner you please – at least, not without a hefty honk from a bus or the cursing fist of a pedestrian. Here are the rules of the road, which will ensure you and the people around you are happy.
Drive in the road
When you are new to cycling in the city, it is common to forget that you are considered a vehicle rather than a pedestrian. In other words, do not try to cycle on the pavement – those are for feet only! Luckily, London is pretty well-established in the world of cycling, so there are a number of bicycle lanes which make you feel less like you are shoulder to shoulder with a bus and a car and more like you have your own space to drive. This extends to stopping at red lights – a common disobeyed rule by cyclists is to use the lights to their advantage when it suits them, but act more like a pedestrian when there is a break. Though cycle lanes will make your life infinitely easier, they are not a rule so much as an aid. You are allowed to cycle in the car lanes, you should just limit this to if you are experienced.
Wear a helmet
Though it seems like the kind of rule your mum would set for you during school, riding your bike in London without a helmet is not strictly against the rules, but doing so is frankly reckless and stupid. The roads of London are a maze and sometimes seem straight from an episode of Wacky Races – you do not want to come off your bike and be unprotected.
You are required to signal as if you are a car when cycling in London – use your arms to indicate which way you are turning and do so with enough time that the car behind you slows down. A good practice to get into while cycling is to make eye contact with drivers when given the opportunity. This way, you know they have seen you and will be mindful of your movements.
Ride on the left
When cycling in the UK at large, you must follow the rules of the road in general. This means you must drive on the left-hand side of the road, pass right and ride in the same direction as traffic. You will be fined if you are found to be cycling up the wrong way of a one-way street, you are going to get a hefty fine.
No phones or earphones
As is the practice with driving – and walking on busy streets – keep off your phone. It is a recipe for disaster when there are so many people around you at all times. It is also important to cycle without listening to anything with earphones, as it means you have your wits about you and your senses are focused on your surroundings.
Though your goal won’t always be to cycle at night, given how early the sun goes down during the Winter months, this is not always avoidable. Not only will you be fined if you are found to be cycling after dark without lights, but they ensure that you have as easy a ride as possible.
Though you are technically allowed to cycle in a number of pedestrian areas and it is not against the rules to do so, sometimes, you are better off dismounting and pushing your bike rather than trying to weave through the crowds or anticipate the sporadic movements of a frustrated commuter.
Keep away from parked cars
Again – this is one for your own safety, rather than a legal rule. When cycling near parked cars, it is advised that you keep a safe distance in case they open the door and knock you off your bike and into the passing traffic.
Do not carry passengers
Unless the bike is specifically designed for it, you should not have more than one person on it at a time. This is one of the rules on the finable-list. It is a hazard to not only those around you, but the person with whom you are riding. There are bike-hiring shops around the city that start at £2 to hire, so it is really not worth the risk.
No drunk driving
Cycling drunk is completely against the rules of cycling in London – and, hopefully, the world over. Though there is no technical limit, and your driver’s license is not affected by the offence, you can be fined up to £2500 for this indiscretion. Make sure you always travel with a chain and lock, and then you will never find yourself in a situation where you can’t just leave your bike locked up safely overnight. A number of hotels in Shoreditch will help you arrange a taxi if you give them a call.
Between the sweet deals involved in London hotels’ Special Offers and a weekend of cycling, your trip to London may actually end up being a pretty cost-effective experience. Just ensure you are following the rules of the road and everyone will have a good time. Feeling unsure? A number of London boroughs offer free cycling safety courses where you can get a grip on the nuances of navigating the city on two wheels. You will learn to control your bike in a safe, off-road environment; cycle safely on the road with other traffic on quieter roads; and Cycle on busier roads and manage complex junctions in London. More information on these three levels of classes can be found at: https://tfl.gov.uk/modes/cycling/cycling-in-london/cycle-skills#on-this-page-1