By Lonnee Hamilton
My husband Tony and I have been cycling together for more than 10 years. What started out as me huffing and puffing around the Rose Bowl in our hometown of Pasadena, California, has become somewhat of an international adventure for the both of us.
My first bike was a Trek hybrid (kind of a cross between a road bike and a beach cruiser; more comfortable than a road bike) — and though I sold it a few years back, it is still one of my favorite bikes. I started cycling because I needed a way to exercise that was not running. I hate running with a passion, and cycling fit the bill. I encouraged Tony to get his own bike and join me, which has since led him down the path to bike obsession (be careful what you wish for), but it’s all good.
We have cycled in L.A., Ojai, Palm Springs, Santa Barbara vineyards and San Francisco, to name a few places. And since moving to the UK four years ago, we have cycled in Cap Ferret on the southwest coast of France and in Paris and Amsterdam; on The Isle of Wight and Whitstable in England, and throughout London with trips to Richmond, Greenwich and Hackney Wick, among others. I’m a slow cyclist, so our cycling is more cycle touring.
Tips for cycling on London streets
Of all the places we’ve cycled, London is one of the most challenging for me. City traffic, traffic on the left-hand side of the street, and not really knowing traffic rules here at all definitely keeps you on your toes. But with time, I have become more and more comfortable cycling in London, so here are a few tips for you to get started:
Who’s the Mechanic?
If you go on longer trips, there are bound to be mishaps, accidents, and things that need to be fixed on the bike. Someone in your group should know how to change a tire, for example. I don’t want to go into too much detail about our cycling dynamics… but let’s just say it’s not me. A cycling toolkit is a must.
Don’t Fear the Big Red Bus
At first, it’s terrifying to cycle on the city street with a London double-decker in close pursuit. My first ride in Central London I freaked out so much it was weeks before I would try again. London traffic is intense, but drivers for the most part are very aware of cyclists, and bus drivers even more so. Just follow basic traffic laws, don’t be a cycling jerk, and don’t make sudden changes in riding movement and you will be fine.
Wear a Helmet
Seriously, your head versus a cement curb... who do you think is going to win?
Use Your Hands
Don’t be shy. Use your hand signals to let drivers behind you know if you’re going to be turning left or right. I know I appreciate it when a cyclist uses their hand signals when I’m behind the wheel. The UK hand signals are a little different from the US ones, but all you really need to know is to indicate a turn.
Lonnee is the Club Relations director of the AWC. She owns real estate company London Realty International.
UK Cycling Hand Signals
How to Cycle in London
National Cycle Network Routes