An Australian’s guide to commuting in London – sustainable-style
Written by Prince's Trust Australia's Chief Executive, Michelle Endacott
I set myself the challenge of commuting for my week of meetings and events in London for Prince’s Trust Week in the most sustainable way possible, mainly by foot, tube and cycling. I caught the famous black cabs, complete with friendly and chatty drivers just twice, when laden with heavy luggage, and when wearing a floor-length evening dress for a very special dinner at St James’s Palace.
London hums with traffic and energy 24 hours a day – but I found leafy cycling tracks and sneaky shortcuts for commuting, even in the city’s beating heart.
1. Try a ‘Boris bike’. Their formal name is Santander rental bikes, but locals nicknamed them after UK’s Prime Minister Boris Johnston, who was mayor when they were introduced. There was a stand of around 20 bikes outside my hotel in Paddington. You scan your credit card for 2pounds to get started. They are comfortable and as London is famously pretty flat, the cycling is easy. There is a great network of cycle paths – from my hotel, the quickest way to the bustling Oxford Street was through leafy Hyde Park. Most cycle paths are separated from the road by a raised edge, and there are lots of green and red lights just for cyclists. The bikes even have a panel on the back wheel to stop your skirt getting tangled.
2. Plan your cycling route carefully before you head off – that peaceful cycling path can turn into a shared road with double-decker buses and even though you may sometimes have right of way, it can be rather terrifying.
3. Study the map before you head off. Especially for newcomers, it seems simpler to catch the tube (underground railway), but sometimes it can take just a few minutes longer to walk. And sometimes it’s even faster, especially if you have to change lines, or there’s a long hike underground to get to your platform. Most women have flat loafers or running shoes popped in their bag, for the classic ‘Working Girl’ march around town(You need to be of a certain vintage and watched the 1988 movie to get this tip.)
4. For slightly longer journeys, ignore tip three. The tube reaches most corners of the city, and I was thrilled to take a ride on the shiny new Elizabeth Line on the day it opened. There is no need to buy the network’s ‘Oyster cards’, the quickest way to ride is to tap on and off with your regular Australian credit card.