Cycling in big cities may seem at first glance to be intimidating due to the volume of traffic. The roads are packed full with motor vehicles all trying to squeeze past you. And who wants to suffocate in the exhaust fumes and noise while one could be leisurely cycling down a countryside lane admiring the scenery? Nevertheless, you’ll still find cyclists in city centres. Here’s why.
1. Slow traffic
Certainly, city centres are congested and because of that very fact, the high volume of traffic can only move slowly. As a cyclist, you’ll be able to overtake stationary vehicles easily and they will have plenty of time to see you and stop or slow down. Slow-moving vehicles are much less of a danger than a car squeezing past you at high speed down a narrow country lane. The speed limit of course is also much lower in build-up areas.
2. Park anywhere
Who hasn’t had a problem finding a parking space in town, especially for big SUVs vehicles? If you haven’t then it’s because you probably have deep enough pockets to go for the most expensive car parks. Most parking spaces in towns are not free and they are for a fixed duration only, meaning you have to watch time and rush back if necessary. Sometimes, you might even have to park far away and walk quite a distance simply because there is no parking nearby. For bicycles, there are plenty of stands provided all over the place to lock them. If there are no dedicated bicycle stands nearby against which to lock your bike, or if they are all taken, you can always lock it to a sturdy post. There are posts on every street, from a lamp post to a stop sign. Just find a place that is out of the way and will not get in pedestrians’ way. Where would you find these stands in countryside? Not that you really need them though!
3. Close destinations
Another good thing in the city is that you have good chances of finding a bike shop should you encounter a mechanical problem with your bike. And in London, you can always take your bike with you on the Tube on certain lines. It’s not just a bike shop you might want but any shop, whether you’re going for food shopping, clothes or just out and about in town. Cities are compact and you can do and find many things, whether going out for a drink, to the cinema and so on. As they are not far from each other, they are easily accessible by bike. And of course, you’ll be able to lock your bike just in front.
This leads us to one of the most popular reason to cycle: beat the rush hour. Have you taken the metro in Paris at peak time? Have you tried to drive on the road? It’s rush hour there throughout the day. By jumping on a bike, you avoid the crushing crowd in the train, overcrowded platforms and delayed trains. The bike is your freedom to go where you want, when you want. You really have to try it to experience and enjoy that freedom. The slow traffic and availability of locking your bike anywhere are two more reasons why commuting by bicycle is so much better.
Oh, and did we say it’s free? Do you still want to pay the train companies for the privilege of being late?
Roads in towns and cities are usually better maintained and in better condition. You will rarely have flooding or deep pockets of muds across the tarmac and there are fewer potholes. The streets tend to be wider and have wide pavements on each side. Narrow streets are usually turned into one ways or have speed breakers placed to slow down vehicles.
At night, even though you are recommended to have a light, the street lighting is bright enough that you see everything clearly. And at that time, the lack of traffic makes it a real pleasure to slide down the tarmac smoothly on two wheels. You own the road then!
6. Lost your way?
This one-way system tends to make roads a maze to navigate through and if you don’t know the area, you can get lost easily or take a wrong turn and be unable to come back to your steps. The sheer number of roads, avenues, alleys, streets and boulevards just make it more complicated to find your way around, let alone the traffic lights and road markings that dictate you take the correct lane early on before you make a turn or go straight ahead.
Well, all this applies with motor vehicles. If you are on a bike and feel lost, confused or overwhelmed, just jump off your bike, go onto the pavement and turn around if you need to. You might still have the same difficulty finding your way but if you took the wrong turn or find yourself down a 1-way, it’s easy to come back. Wide pavements make you turn into a pedestrian at any time. Just be careful not to hit pedestrians with your pedals and handlebar!
Sometimes, you may not have a choice about cycling in the busy towns and cities. Rain, traffic, noise and pollution tend to make it unenjoyable compared to the tranquil scenery of rural areas. But there are always two sides to a coin so learn to appreciate what’s there. Paris and London have bikes for hire and they have already proved to be hugely popular.