the london cycling scene looks familiar

Having switched now from tennis fans to London tourists, we’ve had a day on the streets to observe the London cycling scene in action. So far, it looks a lot like New York City’s, right down to the “tribes” of upright, road, commuter and fixed-gear riders pedaling around town.

One big difference though, is the width of the streets in general. Historic London’s generally narrower thoroughfares present substantial challenges to sharing among cyclists, pedestrians and automobiles – even when bike lane markings are present. And yet, cycling seems remarkably popular, encouraged here, as in New York, by a mayor who has championed cycling as a transportation alternative.

Not surprisingly, the cab drivers whom we spoke with had their share of complaints, but they weren’t against cycling in general. Their main gripe was with bicyclists who run traffic signals at high speed. (Sound familiar?)

In the East London section of Islington, where we started the day early on Wednesday, cyclists bound for the city center (above) poured through the intersection of St. John and Own Streets.

At mid-day (above), the bike racks around St. John’s Square in East London were full.

Bike parking isn’t easy to find everywhere, though. Above, bikes are stack-locked on a side street in Mayfair.

Finally, the creative re-purposing of used bicycles seems universal.

shopping london’s bobbin bicycle shop

Since the first time I laid eyes on the charmingly illustrated website of Bobbin Bicycles in London, and read about the owners’ philosophy about city cycling, I’ve been dying to visit.

On Wednesday morning I traveled to Islington in East London to meet  Sian Emmison and Tom Morris, the delightful owners of the compact storefront on St. John Street, which they’ve filled with beautiful bicycles and fetching accessories.

It’s an exciting time for the couple, who steered ahead of the curve of Londoners’ growing interest in cycling for city transport when they launched their business in 2007. With more than 2,000 bikes sold — mostly the upright, steel variety with internal hubs – Sian and Tom have accumulated a wealth of insight into the stylish side of city cycling, and new partnerships and business ventures are evolving as a result.

My interview with Sian and Tom is to come, but in the mean time, my visit to Bobbin Bicycles included shopping, of course. This being London, my purchases were weighted toward rain gear, and included  (from left below) a rain cape, a silver helmet, and a plaid vinyl saddle cover.

photos: velojoy

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