Cycling In London: The Good, The Bad And The Very Ugly

06/02/2013   |   Posted by jeremy

Today's blog was written by Jemma Leahy of Help my chain came off, check out her thoughts on all things bikey in and around the capital at


I used to be terrified at the thought of cycling in a busy city. That was until I moved to London and became more terrified at the thought of squeezing myself on the Underground everyday. For me, the fear of cycling in a city was the unknown. I had unrealistic expectations that my life was going to be in great danger and that the roads are full of car crazies yelling cockney rhyming slang ‘Get off my streets, I’m going make a Butchers outta you!’ Ok, so some of this is partly true, but when the unknown became known, I realised that cycling in London was simple and easy. In fact, the confidence I have built up riding my bicycle on the streets of such a big, busy city has been terrific and I sure have seen some sights. So I thought I’d share with you some of the eccentricities I have witnessed whilst pedaling around the capital. I give you the good, the bad and the VERY ugly.


The Good

Boris Johnson. I know what you’re thinking, ‘what’s he doing under the ‘Good’ category? You’re havin’ a laff!’ Well, I’m talking about Boris BIKES, the bike rental scheme. These nifty rental bikes are used primarily by tourists and city boys who like to cycle whilst wobbling under their brollies with their suits flapping. Each bike has a useful ‘handbag hugger’ function at the front which is perfect for your shopping. However, I have also learned that this contraption can offer more than carrying round your Tesco values sausages, they also double up as a perfect spot to stick your child! Team with a French stick under your arm and you’ve nailed the laissez-faire look. Boris bikers get a Help! My Chain Came Off thumbsup!

Talking about laissez-faire Boris Bikers, these cool kids make up just a small proportion of the hundreds of cyclists battling around the city. It’s always such a good feeling joining other bicycle scenesters who are also pedaling to work. And these numbers are growing! Another thumbs up from the Help! My Chain Came Off camp.



Right, let’s get down to business. There are gazillion bad things about cycling in London (black cabbies, too much traffic, lack of decent infrastructure, cowboy motorists….). For me, I particularly don’t like the pollution. Chugging stinky petrol filled air on the way to work is not my idea of a fresh, breezy morning ride. And what’s even worse is the pungent drain smell, which wafts across the City of London when there’s a heat wave. When frequenting these parts in the height of summer, always remember the mantra ‘In through mouth, and out through the mouth’ and you will just about survive!


The VERY ugly

The glamour of cycling to the backdrop of Buckingham Palace, Big Ben and Tower Bridge can easily be quashed by cycling over your finest squashed city rat, which sometimes can be the size of a small cat. One particular victim lay glued to the road for a whole week, which added an unusual obstacle to my route to work. Beware of the dead rat becoming unstuck onto your tyres and flung onto your leg. Seeing squashed city rats on my ride gets a major Help! My Chain Came Off thumbsdown.  

So there we have it, the good, the bad and the VERY ugly of cycling on the streets of London. Pedaling round a diverse city makes everyday individual. Just make sure you have a little wit, resistance and stay clear of those gangster rats!