The thought receptacle

Stephen's mental dustbin

Thu, 17 Mar 2011

More London cycling

At the weekend I took my bike on the train from Cambridge to Oxford. Unfortunately the tubes were down between Baker Street and Paddington, so I had to cycle that bit. When I emerged from Baker Street station, the noise, bustle and ferocious traffic of Marylebone Road made me distinctly not-enthralled by the prospect of the cycle ride. However, I knew better than to go down the main roads. A quick map check later, and I had planned a backstreets route. And lo! the moment I turned off Baker Street into Dorset Street, the bustle was gone. It was replaced by a dense grid of quiet backstreets. I think a lot of people are put off cycling in London from seeing the busy streets (and yes, the people cycling on them), since these tend to be the ones frequented by pedestrians looking for shops or other attractions. But this is groundless, since if you cycle, you can usually stay on the quiet streets that you wouldn't normally visit. As if to make my point, eventually (although not in a planned fashion) my route merged with the London Cycle Network which was signed towards Paddington. So, if I had actually known where I was going from the off, the whole ride would not be much hassle at all. Despite this delay, my station-to-station journey still took a bit less time than the X5 (although not by much).

Nevertheless, I've been forced to accept an unfortunate conclusion: that getting the train between Oxford and Cambridge avec bike is not a good deal. Taking a bike on the tube between Paddington and King's Cross is a bit of a hassle already, mainly because of the stairs. If the tube isn't running, it can get worse. In future I'd plan to cycle between Paddington and King's Cross---I imagine a decent route is available, and it's past time that I look it up. Once you know where you're going, it probably takes about the same amount of time as the tube. The real killer is the ticket price of the train, which is something like three times that of the X5. Given that the X5 does take bikes, unlike most buses, and although I hate sitting on the same bus for three and a half hours, it wins because it's both cheaper than the train and a way to avoid any sort of hassle deriving from a change in London. Crossrail is all very well, but what would be a really good idea, if you'll excuse the German, is a “London Hauptbahnhof”.

One particularly nice hassle-reducing property is that the bus begins and ends in the right places, so getting on and off, and depositing or retrieving your bike, are fairly relaxed affairs. Taking the train between Oxford and Paddington often means changing at Reading, off or onto a First Great Western train of the intercity style, for which the bike arrangements are slightly fraught: you have to sit in the coach at the end of the train, since that's where the bike compartment is. But you don't access the bike compartment from inside the coach---so at Reading you have to hop out, walk the length of the coach to the bike compartment, open that door, untie your bike and get it out before the doors are slammed shut again. There's not actually much danger of this going wrong, since there's easily time to get into the bike compartment, and once you've done this, the platform staff aren't going to slam the door without checking inside. In practice, a stop for a slam-door train like these always seems to take a few minutes, much longer than the minute or so that bike retrieval does. However, this rational angle isn't quite enough to make the process worry-free.

I neglected to mention that there's another way between Oxford and Cambridge, which I tried on my way out: train-bike mashup. This was ver successful---I'll post about it shortly.

[/all] permanent link


Powered by blosxom

validate this page