Cycling in London is slightly different from most other EU cities.
First of all, they drive on the wrong side of the road!
Secondly, London is not a very biker friendly. There are not a lot of biking lanes, and most of the bicycle lanes that do exist have to be shared with buses and taxis, which defeats the purpose of bicycles lanes.
That being said, it is not impossible to bike around London, and a lot of people are actually doing it!
There are two main options when it comes to acquiring a bicycle, you can buy your own, or you can get a subscription for Santander bicycles.
As a student you can get it 25% off a yearly subscription for Santander bicycles, which means that you only pay £67.50 for the year. This is a great option if your accommodation is close to a few Santander bicycle stations, however, if you want to rent a Santander bicycle you will have to return it to a Santander docking station and some may not have available docks. This means that you might need to go to a bike station further away from uni, and it could cost you a bit of time.
Another factor to remember about Santander bicycles is that once you have a subscription, only the first 30 minutes of the ride that are free, after that, you will be required to pay but you can circumvent this by changing bikes after 25 minutes to avoid paying the extra fee.
Nonetheless, it is a great option as you do not have to upkeep maintenance, you do not have to be scared that someone may steal your bike and you save money on transport. I did this for my second year, and it worked great for me. Take a look at the TFL website, or message me for more info.
The second option is to buy your own bike. This is a good option if you wish to avoid the time limits of Santander bikes along with the hunt to find one or an available docking station. There is still the maintenance to take care off, in addition to that, there is a constant risk of it being stolen (or parts of it) so do keep that in mind. It is also hard to find reasonably priced bikes in London, they really do overcharge. However, Gumtree would be a good place to look if you want a second-hand bike, which would probably be more budget-friendly. I’m moving again for my final year and the Santander bikes won’t be an option for me, so I’ll have to buy a bike, which I’m actually looking forward to!
Having introduced you to what it might be like to bike around London, and some of the buying/ renting options, I thought it might also be useful to give you the pros and cons of doing it.
- You save a lot of money
- You are not limited by the running schedule of public transport, not limited/ delayed by rush hour i.e. you don’t have to wait for the next tube/ bus to arrive because the previous one was full.
- You can practice social distancing and not be nervous being crammed into over-packed tubes.
- You are also freer to go where you want when you want, and most of the time you actually save on travel time because you don’t have to change bus or lines.
- You stay active!
- It wakes you up before classes.
- Its good for the environment
- Renting or buying a bike will usually cost you less than two monthly Oyster travel cards.
- The bike might get stolen
- You might feel unsafe on the big roads, vehicles are not used to look out for bikes.
- Maintenance can be a big deal and might cost you some money
- Finding a place to park both your rented and bought bike might be problematic sometimes, and it sucks when it rains!
As you can see, there are plenty of both pros and cons, but for me, the biggest pro is definitely that you can avoid most of the cons by just being careful, and that you can safeguard against most problems.
It is fun to bike around, and it does give you more freedom, both in terms of going around wherever you want, whenever, but also because it gives you a bit of a break from the constant expenses that follow the amazing and vibrant life of a Londoner.
I can most definitely recommend getting a bike or renting one.
Stay safe, stay alert and use a helmet.