Tuesday 10 March 2020

Cycle route: South London to Westminster and Chelsea

Cycling through London need not be an experience to be endured. Many people fear riding through the streets of the capital, thinking that it is at best a test of battling through traffic negotiating unfriendly motorists, and at worst a pure daredevil activity.

On Blackfriars Bridge - from one segregated cycle path to another, along the River Thames 
As someone who has cycled around London since 2001, I must say that cycling in Central London is not so bad. Facilities for cyclists have improved a lot in recent years, particularly with the advent of the Cycle Superhighways, Quiet Ways, and the Transport for London bike sharing scheme for those who need a bike.

I have been riding the Liv Thrive E+ E-bike and found it really useful for getting around London. It's particularly good if you are new to cycling and/or you don't want to exert yourself too much when riding. As someone who lives in a hilly part of London, I know what it means to exert yourself when cycling!

So here's a loop I recommend when cycling from South London, into Central London and back again.

Entrance to Dulwich Park with the Picture Gallery opposite
Start off in Crystal Palace, where you can ride up through Crystal Palace Park, and exit the park on the East side to arrive at the top of Crystal Palace Park Road.

A bus lane and an assisted crossing can get you onto Fountain Drive, where you drop down a speedy descent through the toll road section of College Road. 

I always feel good going down the road and not having to stop to pay, unlike the motorists queuing at the barrier near Dulwich College.    

College road leads into Dulwich Village, where you can stop off at the Park, the Picture Gallery opposite, or at one of the cafes on the main street. 
It's quite a nice corner of the world.

Onwards and the road continues straight on to Red Post Hill, which on the E-bike felt effortless. On a manual push-bike the climb is not too steep, and is the last climb before reaching Central London. What goes up must come down, and true to form the road drops down to Loughborough Junction - what I call the gateway to inner London. 

From here the route goes past social housing estates at the back of Brixton and Camberwell, before crossing a quiet road that leads behind Kennington Park and eventually emerging at Elephant and Castle.

The main street through Dulwich Village, which has a few cafes
Now, this is a junction, which in the past has been a place that many cyclists have avoided. But in recent years a lot of work has been done to develop a cycle-friendly passage across the junction.

And I must say, it is very good now. There is a segregated path that runs alongside the junction and cycle specific traffic lights.

Then another paths leads towards Lambeth North and you can pick up a segregated Cycle Superhighway that goes through Southwark and all the way to Clerkenwell if you feel like heading that way.

The route I took went over Blackfriar's Bridge and then I turned immediately left to ride alongside the River Thames on another segregated Cycle Superhighway that goes past all the famous landmarks of London - The Oxo Tower, The Eye, The National Theatre, right up to Westminster and the Houses of Parliament. Still following the segregated path you go across to Parliament Square and Great George Street to reach the serenity of St James's Park and Buckingham Palace.

I felt spoiled for choice to be able to either ride up the Mall or Birdcage Walk, both of which have cycle lanes. I went on the latter (as I have ridden up the Mall loads of times in the past) and then cut in front of Buck House to then ride along the side of Green Park on, you've guessed it - another segregated cycle path.

Birdcage Walk on the way to see the Queen!
 Then it was a case of going under Wellington Arch to enter Hyde Park, along South Carriage Drive, and when I was almost level with Harrods I left the park to head into Chelsea along some quiet streets and make my way back home via Belgravia and Pimlico, and over Vauxhall Bridge to regain the depths of South London.

This was a very pleasant 22-mile loop around London, with lots of traffic-free sections and rides on traffic-light roads. I would certainly recommend this route even to a newby rider.

Of course there are various sections where you can do a shorter ride and just do the section nearest to your home. Depending on current rules you may wish to photograph the various pretty sights and landmarks you will spot along the way.

Cycle Superhighway along the River Thames towards Westminster

Here is the route as recorded on Strava.

Related posts
Bike Life with the Liv Thrive E+ E-bike

Navigli of Milan and suburban bike ride

Rapha Festive 500: Park Life Tour - East and Central London


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