101 reasons to love cycling in London #25 - make friends, and start communities

A few years ago I lived in a medium density residential development comprising of apartment blocks built round a central car park.  In the 2 years that I lived there I never once met my neighbours, despite walking past their front doors every day on the way up the stairs to my apartment.  The only time anyone went outside at this unit was to walk to their car, before driving off.  On reflection it was quite the suburban nightmare...

I'm at the top of an apartment block again where I live now, and believe that my riding a bicycle has helped to build a stronger sense of community in my new home:  I'm friends with the German couple who own the basement flat, next to which I lock my bicycle and whose hose I borrow to wash my bike.  When I've been working on maintaining the bike at the back of the flats I've got talking to another neighbour who was interested in taking up cycling.  A friend, who had a balance disorder for many years and lives a few doors down said how much he envied my ability to ride a bike; he's since had a go on mine and loved it and was astonished to find he still new how to ride a bike after all the years...  The young man who lives on the first floor always smiles at me ever since I told him not to lock his bike to the sign post at the front of the flats because there had been a spate of bike thefts in the area.  All these interactions, these fleeting exchanges, are what help to make a community and sense of place and safety.  When the only time you step outside is when you scurry from your front door to your car door it's more difficult to build up this kind of rapport.  Bikes are on a human scale.

And of course, cycling in London has lead to me making friends too, and could for you too. You'll find you become buddies with the other cyclists where you work, or you get drawn in to the online world of one of the many cycling forums such as Cycle Chat or London Fixed-Gear and Single-Speed: before you know it you're out on a leisure ride with your new-found cycling friends. Maybe you'll get into sports cycling and join a team, or get involved with advocacy campaings volunteering at camaigns and events for the LCC.  Maybe you'll see the same people on your commute every day, or every month at Critical Mass (this Friday, incidentally) and end up sharing a beer or two after a ride with these people.  In a big old city like London, that intial point of introduction that the bicycle provides is invaluable and can of course lead to great friendships.

By riding a bike yourself, you are also helping to make the streets you ride in more liveable for the people who reside there.  No friends of your own?  Maybe the vehicle traffic in your street is making you that way.  Cyclised streets are civilized streets, and every 2 wheeled journey you make is helping to contribute to that.

So, as we reach the quarter way mark of 101 reasons to love cycling in London, let's recap as to why there is so much more to the humble bicycle than first meets the eye, and look over the past 25 reasons to love cycling in London:

1.  Saving money
2.  Not being sweaty
3.  Gets the heart rate going
4.  Avoid the Congestion Charge
5.  It's fun!
6.  Zero emmissions
7.  No noise pollution
8.  You can be a crime fighting hero!
9.  More free time
10.  Seeing things
11.  Fastest way across town
12.  Increases the value of your home
13.  Reduces congestion.  Substantially.
14.  You make it safer for yourself (safety in numbers)
15.  Exercise your grey cells
16.  A transport for ALL seasons
17.  It's egalitarian
18.  It's reliable
19.  You could win Gold! (It's an Olympic sport)
20.  The most fuel efficient transport in the world
21.  Makes a big city small
22.  It keeps you sane
23.  Get in touch with nature
24.  It raises your self esteem
25.  Make friends and start communities...

...so as you can see there are many reasons to love cycling in London, and why London should love it's cyclists.  What are yours?


Anonymous said...

Another great reason and post Mark!

I truly believe that cycling makes a city a better place and draws communities in. I've seen it in my neighborhood and get excited that the cyclists out there and their enthusiasm is encouraging and influencing other people out on wheels, it's a wonderful cycle (no pun!) which will only see London becoming even more liveable and cycle friendly.

Only just recently found your blog - keep up the great work Mark!


Mark said...

Hi Liv, thanks for stopping by and we're glad you found us!

I totally agree that cycling can help to draw in the scale of a community and make it more cohesive; it's exciting that you are observing the same effect in your neighbourhood as I am in mine.

Vive la velorution!

Adam said...

For me, cycling at weekends is quality time with the kids.

Earlier this month we did a cheap adventure. Cycle bikes with tent from Hatfield to Hertford and camped the night at the camp site.

Only 9 miles in each direction along the Cole Green Way but the kids loved doing it all themselves and the sense of achievement.

Is this reason number 26?


Mark said...

Thanks Adam, I will add it to the list for sure!

Michelle said...

Hi Mark,

I hope you're well and having a good week so far. I'm getting in touch from Dennis Publishing as we have recently released a MagBook titled The Ultimate Guide to Bicycle Maintenance and I would like to offer you a copy to review on your blog.

If you'd be interested in this please email me on michelle_marsh@dennis.co.uk



anna said...

I love your collection :). You've mentioned many of the things that I love about cycling. Some more of my reasons:

* it's very safe at night (esp. for women, it's much safer to use a bike as to walk or use public transport)
* it frees my mind from work on my evening commute (although not anymore cause I don't cycle to work anymore)
* it's creative (bike decorations, special bike constructions)
* I can shop a lot (at least more than on foot or public transport)
* I can go where cars can't go, to relax (e.g. Danube island, Danube bike path)
* I can use short cuts
* people talk to me (ask for the way etc.) when I stop at junctions etc., it's much more social

Andy in Germany said...

I'd agree with the community building aspect. I realise more and more that abundant energy just seems to make things overscaled, which leaves people feeling small and powerless.

Apart from that the positives include:

Watching my kids become independent, and watching their pride at their achievement.

Having loads of ways to help them learn little stuff like knots and mapreading that they will use all their life.

The confidence I feel when I'm on a bike, feeling like it's an extension of me.

Being able to be creative with my steed.

Being a part of the landscape, following contours and valleys, accepting that the hills are there and working around them, not just agains them.

AnnaCyclesToParis said...

SOrry to post this on here, but no email contact for you Mark :-( (I do LVOE this post btw!)
Look Mom No Hands (http://twitter.com/1ookmumnohands) is doing a bike jumble sale this Sunday from 11am. Anyone can turn up and sell stuff, as long as it's all carried there on your bike. Last time was really busy so early birds are lucky birds. I'll be selling a lot of nice stuff, 100% proceeds to charity. I work for record label so have really nice rare Vinyl, T-shirts, signed CDs and boxsets for sale. COME and join the fun!

Lady Vélo said...

The community aspect of cycling - I agree with this :) I'm really enjoying meeting people (even if it's online connections via blogging about cycling) - it's lovely. I need to come along to a Critical Mass at some point to meet more people!

Mark S said...

I've made quite a few friends through cycling and an online forum. It all started about 2 years ago and the core of the group now meets almost weekly for Friday drinks and we've had 2 Xmas parties, 2 summer meet-ups at the wonderful Richmond Park (a place I was "introduced to" via the same group of people!) and even a long weekend in Wales where we shared a bunkhouse, excellent value at about £100 including the food.