Hi! I have spent my summer writing this blog and now as my final entry, I will share my experience in cycling and lifestyle this year in London.
First things first
Who am I and who is my bike?
I am Ieva, a 21-year-old Latvian-born art student. And my bike is an Erenpreiss Greta 1st generation in light blue. I got this bike 5 years ago in May and compared to London I barely rode it, because I simply did not feel the necessity to use a bike as a commute vehicle. However, once I moved to London, things changed. Everything was crazy far and with university and work, I found that cycling is not only a fast way to move around but also, makes me spend time outside in the “fresh” (better than in the underground) air.
When you see my bike (or me one it in a dress) you would probably think I go on a 5-minute Instagram stroll, when actually this bike is hella fast and so am I. I lived in North London, next to Alexandra Palace, my Uni was in Elephant and Castle, and still I rode to school. 15 km one way- an hours ride. From my personal experience, I have not met others (except my 2 flatmates) that ride this kind of distance every day.
Nevertheless, throughout the first year in Uni my Greta was a loyal companion. So here’s to my experience.
My crash (and near crash) experiences.
Cycling in the city is dangerous I think everyone knows that, I have never been injured while cycling, but I have experienced some lucky time.
- Getting doored. I was riding down a steep hill when a passenger of a car that had stopped at the red light suddenly swung open the door. The car was next to a bus lane that was on, there was no way to avoid the collision. Slammed into the lady, slammed into the car. No one was hurt and I got the classic “sorry, I didn’t see you”. I did not want any hassle and said I am fine and rode away, only to meet an eyewitness that told me “you should sue him for this”. I would rather hope that the driver and passenger learned from this experience.
- Hitting a pedestrian. I have the green light. The Pedestrian girl has the red. On the new North-South cycle superhighway right next to Southwark Station, at rush hour when cyclists, me being first at the light, race forward the woman suddenly walks right onto the path looking at her phone. I hit her. She literally bobbled to the ground, shoes, phone and all flying. No one hurt, but his could have easily resulted in a hospital visit.
- Of course on the same cycle superhighway, there are small connection roads with cabbies whizzing in and out without notice. And on many occasions, I have barely avoided a crash pushing all the brakes. Really hoping this has been taken care of thoughout the summer.
- Lastly the most serious one. It was a dark night (I do have the lights and reflectors), and as I was a minute away from home on the last steep hill, as I cross the road straight ahead on a just turned yellow, with no cars behind me, in the very middle, a car that obviously crossed on the red turns left and bolts towards be hitting the brakes when seeing me. The car stopped about 20 cm away from, my heart pounded like crazy, the crossroads were blocked and all the cars were looking at us. The driver waved and apologized. I got off my bike and walked home. Literally one of the scariest moments of my life.
Red lights are a very serious issue for London. I have seen many cars dart across at last chance. Since then I have been very cautious when riding in places where you can’t clearly see what’s going on: steep hills, small roundabouts, sharp turns + nighttime, watch out!
Google maps can lie.
I had one incredibly long cycling experience. From Lime Grove to Wood Green (where I lived ). Okay so google maps says 3 routes you pick one, it seems alright, 11,8 miles tough parks. Ah wonderful. No, because while the commute is no long distance-wise, it’s North London, it takes you tough the hills whether you want it or not. Because the map doesn’t take the terrain into account, the supposed one-hour ride turned into 3 hours and complete exhaustion.
Getting trough Oxford Street.
I worked in retail, so on many occasions, I had to go to ultra central London. Oxford street for cyclists is hell. Tiny road space, buses, cabs. And the pedestrians crossing the road where-ever. My best advice: don’t stop moving. If the cars are standstill hooray for you. Get over your anxieties and squeeze though those cars, it’s the only way.
Creating an art project with my bike
My cycle is my muse! A backpack house for hosting all my cycling experiences!
Evans cycles and empty tires 3x
I had a very unfortunate day that was actually only third ride in London. Obviously I got lost, and crazy lost while going to Uni, where I didn’t end up that day. Instead I rode to Canary Warf. I punctured my tire and I was in search for a shop to replace the tube, only one was in central Canary Warf : Evans Cycles. All’s cool that change the tube, I ride for 10 minutes it’s empty again. I walk all the way back, it’s punctured again. “ You are just unlucky!” the guy says. Hey okay, just do your best job now. I start riding home and thankfully after an hours ride when I am nearer to home the tire pops again. I ride home on an empty one. The next day I go to local charity bike shop to get a new tube, a guy looks at it for a minute and finds a metal piece stuck deep inside the tire. This caused all the punctures. And Evans cycles had one job and they did not see it! ********!
By the way this was my intended route (left) and the actual one:
My winter cycling experience in the changing seasons
Autumn: I arrived in September 18th and started actively commuting in October. There weren’t particularly many cyclists out, some morning commuters, people were getting all cozy and taking the tube. I felt all fine, as I come from a country where +14 is great weather for Autumn.
Winter: Okay, for those 2 days when it was -2, and I could see my breath It was pretty harsh. Other than that the roads were empty, even less cars. Bliss, loved it!
Spring: As it got warmer you could really see everyone getting their rides out and strolling fancy. The morning’s got busier everyday and I was really in shock when suddenly I had 20 riders next to me at the red light instead of the odd one.
Summer: Avoid! Thankfully I was going home for the summer, but that last month of Uni in June was crazy! The streets were packed, the summer riders were clumsy, slow and often did not understand where they are going, and stopped abruptly. I could really fell the rush hour with 50 or more cyclist at every red on the cycle superhighway. And don’t even get me started on trying to find a space to lock your bike in public.
Dressing for cycling: heels and dresses.
Wearing a dress is amazing and free. If you ride for more than 30 km a day you probably have an ass of steel like I do and the padded shorts are not needed. If the skirt is long enough to cover you when you lift off the saddle you are good to go. Heels: they are no different than other shoes if they are not stilettos. I only got compliments for wearing heels when riding, and it was no less comfortable.
After riding 30 km a day for a month straight you body will get incredibly strong and fit. No more gym, your commute is your workout.
So that's a part of my story, what's yours?