London has seen a drastic change over the last decade, and it’s a change for the better. The once chaotic metropolis has emerged as one of the fastest growing bicycle-friendly cities in Europe. The City of London has experienced a rapid decline of commuters travelling with cars, and a much welcomed increase in local residents making the swap from four wheels to the more economic and environmentally friendly two-wheeled bicycle.
This change is partly due to the motions set in place by former Mayor of London Boris Johnson, whose vision to dramatically increase the infrastructure for cyclists across the city has succeeded beyond all expectations. In 2013, Mayor Johnson announced his new vision: “Imagine if we could invent something that cut road and rail crowding, cut noise, cut pollution and ill health – something that improved life for everyone”. Thanks to his carefully planned strategy to reduce traffic in the city’s most congested areas, anyone can now enjoy London in an entirely new way: tourists and locals alike can access an abundance of public bikes at designated rental stations across the city’s central zones for affordable and flexible prices.
We put London’s popular Santander Cycles to the test and asked Marie and Saskia, two bike savvy Berliners, to go on a one-day scenic bicycle tour through some of the city’s best locations. We join them on their journey to the more familiar local hotspots and landmarks, through lively green suburban streets and past spectacular views over the city. Here are just a few highlights of the many incredible cycle routes London has to offer.
Start the day in Camden Town with a delicious coffee and breakfast at one of the many cafés or stalls at the famous Camden Lock Market. This unique and vibrant market offers everything from handcrafts, jewellery and clothes to street food and record shops. The incredible variety here is an overwhelming experience for the senses, and a perfect way to start the day.
When you’re all shopped out, grab a Santander Cycle from one of the many public bicycle stands located around the market using a debit or credit card and head down the canal towards Primrose Hill.
Take the exit off the canals onto Gloucester Ave and then a leisurely ride through one of London’s most picturesque suburbs, Primrose Hill. Head up and take a left onto Regent’s Park Road, where you will find plenty of shops, cafés and restaurants. Marie and Saskia recommend The Little One (115 Regent’s Park Road), a great local coffee bar that also offers affordable snacks and deliciously authentic crêpes.
Head down Regent’s Park Road to Primrose Hill Park to find one of the most magnificent views over the whole of London. After taking in the view, speed down Primrose Hill towards Regent’s Park, one of London’s many Royal Parklands and home to the London Zoo. As sections of the park are restricted for bikes, remember to take notice of signs and dismount if necessary.
Regent’s Park also offers a special circuit around the perimeter especially for running and cycling, so feel free to take advantage of this if you’re feeling sporty. The circuit follows a network of canals featuring picturesque houseboats and lush private gardens.
Afternoon / Evening
Take the southernmost exit of the park, passing Regent’s Park tube station and then down Portland Place, where you will find another Santander Bicycle return station. Here you have the choice to return your bike and continue on foot to explore the busy central parts of London, or for the more experienced riders you could also continue down Regent Street by bike.
Stroll or cycle down Regent Street, one of London’s most popular and crowded shopping streets. This route will take you through Oxford Circus all the way down to Piccadilly Circus. Here you can find plenty of the best shops in London, as well as hundreds of bars, cafés and restaurants. Marie and Saskia took some time to explore Soho, a trendy and colourful district located next to Piccadilly Circus, and home to many of the city’s most famous theatres.
Continue the journey to Trafalgar Square, then along Whitehall where you will pass Downing Street, the iconic guarded street and home to the British Prime Minister.
As the sun begins to set over the River Thames, catch a view of the famous Big Ben and the London Eye, ride over Westminster Bridge and then continue along down the river towards Borough Market, one of London’s largest and oldest food markets, for some well deserved replenishment.