The pandemic has pushed many people to get back on their bikes or try cycling for the first time. CLAIRE SELBY is one of them. With Charlton’s new cycleway under construction, she’s been brushing up on her cycle skills on the Thames Path…
Prompted by a couple of my dearest female friends who bought cycles in the first lockdown, I finally bit the bullet a few days before Christmas and got myself a city bike. I used Cycles UK in Deptford and found them ridiculously helpful for a complete novice. Panniers, rack, mudguards, a helmet and a lock later I wheeled my way out of the shop. I knew I could cycle most of the way back to Charlton along the river on the Thames Path but I hadn’t actually done it.
Context here: I haven’t cycled since I was about 14 years old, which is a long time ago and not in London. I didn’t like the idea of trying Boris bikes, and there are unbelievably no hubs yet near Charlton or Greenwich. But sometimes you just have to go for it, and go for it I did.
During the first lockdown I had three local walks I did very often: Charlton via Westcombe Park to Greenwich via the park, walk up and across to Blackheath Village and then Charlton round the O2 via the Thames Path. I got reacquainted with my local area again quietly as I had done through mudlarking over the past couple of years on the foreshore outside the Anchor and Hope. Traversing the area by cycle is quite different, but much more fun. You realise just how long a bus can take. Cycling along the Thames Path will never get old or dull for me. The absolute exhilaration of being near the river, on a designated and pretty decently maintained surface is quite the rush.
From my house off Woolwich Road I can easily cut down the usually quiet Horn Lane, use the Bugsby’s Way crossing and go down Peartree Way right up to the yacht club and then have a glorious cycle right around the O2. Soon I’ll be able to come out of my road and go immediately onto the new cycle track either all the way to Greenwich or Woolwich.
My favourite part of cycling in Charlton is the Thames Barrier. If you cycle from Woolwich and follow the Thames Path, you cycle alongside the river on your right, across the white metallic bridge by the marvellous Thames-Side Studios and slide right down the slope onto Warspite Road. Hook a right, sneak through the gate and cycle alongside the beautiful old warehouse buildings. How long until Faraday Works opens? I can’t wait! You come to a small restriction barrier, onto tarmac humps and there you are – the Barrier! It feels so un-London I love it. Did you know it has its own Twitter account? The glistening peaks of the Barrier hit with sunlight never fail to delight me.
I recently learnt of a proposal to build a bridge alongside the Barrier, why ever not? Recently I arranged to meet a friend there: as I got there I realised he was on the other side of the river.
My next goal is to use the Woolwich Ferry to go north, which should be an adventure. Sadly due to the redevelopment west of the ferry means you can no longer cycle right beside the river, you have to take an awkward ride or walk alongside the road and then rejoin a diversion through one of the new developments. But oh, it is surely worth it because as soon as you pop out, you are right alongside the almost mythical Woolwich Dockyard fishing lakes. Apparently there is still a 40lb carp in there somewhere according to one of the lads fishing there.
On cycling trips around the Peninsula, I have played with cycling back on part of the new cycle lane westbound from Greenwich towards Charlton. As long time residents and avid readers of The Charlton Champion will know, one of the main reasons for this cycle track being developed was the number of fatalities on the Angerstein Roundabout. Even as a pedestrian it is always quite hairy crossing the A102 – the car is king. As a cyclist now, you can’t take an unbroken route to cross it but they have made it a little easier by widening lanes and utilising the pedestrian lights to enable you to cross while still mounted. You still need to press three crossing buttons to do it though so it’s not entirely seamless.
The traffic on Woolwich Road and around the Blackwall Tunnel has always been terrible ever since I moved south of the river about 24 years ago. Lockdown is the only thing that has made it less congested, and the new cycle lane makes things more accessible.
If you are also starting out or getting reacquainted with a bike there is an excellent company called Cycle Confident, which offers free cycle lessons for adults. I had one lesson in that weird limbo between Christmas and New Year amongst children with fancier bikes than mine, scooters, roller skates and everything in between. I highly recommend them and have booked a second now Covid restrictions allow.
I found this which is great: cyclingfallacies.com
Do you have any hints and tips for local cycling? Please share them in the comments below.
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