I arrive by train at Paddington Station in the rush hour and my destination is Kensington, just 3 miles away. It is full throttle down the Bayswater Road. Cycle lanes here are rare and shared with buses. There are vast numbers of travellers with cars, buses and cyclists jockeying for position. Cycling is definately quickest and, while I am legging it, I am overtaken by high speed cyclists. Buses overtake, then stop in front of me. I never understand why people drive cars in London.as they spend half their time in queues and the other half looking for parking spaces. Traffic lights can be terrifying as often I must go in the middle lane but at least there are blue spaces up front for cyclists so that cars may see me. It is said that 24% of all journeys in central London rush hour are by bike. I think that it is true.
I now spend two days being taken around London by my friend, Jaana. After a 7.30am swim in the Serpentine, brrrrr (not me, her), we head off for Shepherds Bush, Victoria to Elephant and Castle. It is not quite as busy as last night but dodging buses and taxis starts to become second nature. There are still plenty of cyclists. We go to see an exhibition at the Elephant which is about inventors showing their wares. The bike park has a big message "LOCK BOTH WHEELS AND FRAME TO THE STAND". As if to ram home the message, there was a bike with no wheels.
We leave the Elephant and unexpectedly meet NCN4 on the National Cycle Network. This is the birth of its journey to Fishguard in West Wales. The South Bank is always brilliant and entertaining with buskers, musicians and budding politicians all catching our attention.
We now head for the West End to see the Xmas lights. We pass theatre land and find ourselves in Regent Street. It is impossible to cycle at any pace as there are thousands of pedestrians and what space is left is taken up by buses. However, why rush? The atmosphere is amazing. People are still shopping, the lights are on (mostly) and the theatres are all very tempting. Ahh, it is night and time to cycle down Bayswater Road again
The next day is completely different. We find the path beside the Grand Union Canal. There are no buses here, only lots of dog walkers. I must not trip over a lead and tumble into the canal. We come to Regents Park and I am stunned by the persistance of car drivers. Why drive? It is so slow. The park however is nice and being a royal park, I think the Queen keeps a careful eye on it. Onwards through Hampstead to Hampstead Heath where we get lost. We find out that there are 3 Heaths and the one we wanted to see was missed because it was getting dark. It is no good asking directions from local people as they send us the wrong way.
So it is time to cycle back to Kensington. We decide to go the quick way down the A41. This is not recommended for cyclists unless you have a very strong constitution. Some might say you should have a death wish. It was full throttle for the second time with my senses fully alert and luckily buses, taxis, cars and lorries were all avoided. We turned into Bayswater Road for the third time and what was frenetic two days ago seemed more like home this time.