A new way to ‘do’ London
Some of my most peaceful moments are speeding down empty streets on my bike – well, I say ‘speeding’, but that’s potentially a very generous adjective for what is really quite a leisurely pace… But you don’t have to cycle in the gutter, or stop every twenty metres at a red light, or ‘curb-crawl’ past traffic – all the while breathing in lovely toxins that are probably having a negative effect on your lung function – to the detriment of your future health. Instead you can cycle right down the middle of the road and look around you for a change instead of drilling your eyes onto the road ahead to avoid particular hazards like aimless pedestrians, sharp-braking cars and taxis that don’t indicate their intentions to cut across your path and add a little spice to your life (and speed to your heart rate). There’s hardly ever a need to pull out the fist-waving, angry-face-making, ‘idiot!’-yelling act if there’s no one else on the road with you.
When you’re walking at night you also get to see a whole new side to London – the side that isn’t the stressful, face-paced, full-frontal offensive of a tourist capital/working city. I mean – get this! – you can actually stroll around without having your heals stepped on by busy office folk or having roller suitcases dragged diagonally in front of you without warning. You avoid stumbling into the backs of tourists who decide to stop and look at a map in the middle of the pavement. And you don’t have to walk into the road to avoid becoming an unintended foreground feature in all the photographic memories being made. (Unintentional photo-bombing is not quite as funny.)
Nope – you can just enjoy looking at the sights without being asked to picture a pair of backpackers in front of them every few minutes. You can hear your own thoughts instead of twenty different conversations in as many languages around you. You can have a conversation and walk side-by-side with your friends instead of having to concentrate on walking – single file only – through crowds of confused, lost and opportunistic people.
And the best thing? You can cross the roads on a red man without running. (It’s true – I’ve turned into an impatient Londoner who will never wait at a crossing – time is money!).
So anyone who hates London because of the crowds and the traffic and the fast-pacedness of it – you just need to time your visit differently. Then you can really enjoy it at your own speed.