London By Bike and Shoe Leather

Joel Epstein
5 min readOct 3, 2023

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By: Joel Epstein

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London bikes. And walks and takes the Tube and buses. And so do I. Wait for it. Yes, I spent a week in London and didnt take in a single show, visit the British Museum or eat fish and chips. It was a hyperfocused visit. See as much of the city and its transportation network as possible while also enjoying a fair number of its pubs.

In my last post I looked at transit and related mobility in Istanbul, Tel Aviv and Jerusalem. Net: Impressive strides have been made in all three cities. In this piece I highlight some of the terrific things happening in London. After spending some time in the land of eggplant or aubergine, it was time to go where there’s cheese.

We’ll go where there’s cheese! — Wallace in Wallace & Gromit: A Grand Day Out.

While the British Empire may be a thing of the past, the capital of the Commonwealth is unquestionably one of the worlds greatest cities for people who care about transit (transport), walkability and bikeability. I give much of the city a nearly perfect walk score.

Arriving at Gatwick Airport, the first thing I did after breezing through immigration was purchase a Transport for London Oyster card. As a Gatwick Express was departing shortly, I made my way to the station and boarded a comfortable semi express train for the 30 minute ride to London Victoria Station. As all airports should, Gatwick boasts a train station in the airport, not miles away, as well as 190 direct trains a day to the city.

A nice welcome to London is the availability of filtered water for refilling your water bottle. The sight of discarded plastic bottles alongside the road everywhere I have ever been is a sobering statement about what a profligate society we have become. Our collective indifference to the perils of single use plastics and other rarely recycled wastes is choking the only planet we inhabit in garbage, or rubbish, as they say in London.

So easy! Banning single use plastic worldwide would go a long way to stemming the destruction of the environment.

As I arrived in London without a bike I used the Santander Cycles app to access the city’s bike share program. For those who don’t have their own bike, Cycles is a good alternative.

A Cycles dock in Earl’s Court.

While I found the Cycles bikes a less smooth ride than the latest Citi Bikes, maybe it was just that I am more familiar with how to pick a good bike at one of New York’s ubiquitous bike docks.

Smell the roses but please don’t bike through the beautiful Rose Garden in Hyde Park.

In addition to the city’s plentiful parks and open spaces, the human scale of many of the city’s neighborhoods helps residents and visitors feel like they can navigate the place. Similarly, the dozens of bike riders and bike sheds I saw all over London sends the message that this is a place one can safely ride, so long as one looks right at the crossings.

Transport for London’s website for finding secure bike parking around the region reminded me of Citi Bike’s app for finding a bike in New York.

The site’s Active Things app also lets you search for Cycleways, Footways and places to find a loo, water and coffee (tea?) along your journey.

Secure bike storage on a street in Queen’s Park in the London Borough of Brent.

While the sheds are not as fancy and roomy as OONEE’s secure bike storage at New York’s Port Authority, they are great nonetheless.

Installation of OONEE’s midtown bike terminal at the Port Authority. As of October, the terminal is regularly full or near capacity.

The biking scene in London is nothing short of awesome. And the city’s protected bike infrastructure and parks make London on a dry day one of my favorite cities.

Regent’s Park.

While I biked and rode the Tube and buses in London, the best thing I did there mobility-wise was walk.

From Kensal Town to Islington, Little Venice to Queen’s Park, the city is a feast for the eyes.

Fittingly named: The Old Queens Head Pub, Islington.
Kensal Town.
Little Venice.
Queen’s Park.
A good advertisement for secure bike parking and bike share in Notting Hill.

Walking around London, one sees the logic of bus shelters with real time bus info, that face in from the street.

A bus shelter on Kilburn High Road that doesn’t break up the flow of pedestrians on the sidewalk.

And then of course there are the double decker buses which somehow stay upright on even the curviest of streets.

Double decker coaches at Golders Green Tube stop.
King Henry’s Walk, Dalston.
A mini Flatiron Building on Stoke Newington High Street, Stamford Hill.

Arriving back at JFK in the afternoon, I eased into my reentry with a stop for aloo channa doubles at Lefferts and Liberty in Little Guyana. It must have been the taste of West Indian food in London that led me there. Conclusion: Fighting words. The real ale in London has us beat but the doubles in Queens are better.

Take the A Train. Almost home.

Yours in transit,

Joel

Joel Epstein is a New Yorker and an advocate for public transit, livable cities and public space.

#london #nyc #transportforlondon #mta #transit #transport #ooneepod #bikelanes #santandercycles #citibike #bikeshare #parks #singleuseplastic #doubledeckerbus #gatwick #jfk #littleguyana

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