First thoughts of Brussels and London

Over to Brussels this weekend to start on our new lives living in mainland Europe. Frustratingly no cycling as we used public transport and shoe leather to start a recce of the suburbs.

But of course the mind turns to cycling, not least because it was glorious sunny day on Sunday. And today it was back into the bustle of London and the thriving bike scene around Waterloo Station.

Villo! Brussels Bike Sharing

Villo! Brussels Bike Sharing

Having ridden in Brussels I find it similar to theUK. Infrastructure is intermittent, most cyclists seem to be on the road and the drivers really haven’t got the awareness of cyclists that comes from a larger cycling share of traffic.

But today I was looking more carefully, seeing something different, something I couldn’t put my finger on initially.

On Friday night in Brussels I was watching commuters around the European District and all through the weekend  I saw recreational cyclists out and about, a couple going to church and a few people probably visiting elderly aunts. What almost all had in common was day clothes and what we can only call sensible bikes, including a few Bromptons. Scattered through them were some users of the regional public hire scheme Villo! in similar clothing.

This morning in London I had missed the rush hour but there were quite a few riders about and the evidence was parked around Waterloo and Lower Marsh. Fixies were in high proportion, quite a few tourers, dropped handlebars and far too many skinny tyres for mid winter. The presence of a bloke mending his puncture in the middle of the parking racks only reinforced my opinion. The dress code summarises the whole feel, the riders still feel they have to wear some sort of cycling style to get about.

London Waterloo Station cycle parking

Typical London commuter bike?

Belgium has one of the greatest histories of cycle racing in the world, and yet its daily cyclists seem to take their cue from the cycling cultures of Holland, while so many of ours seem to think that cycling is a statement, not a bus substitute. I must admit I am usually cycling in London in a suit, often on a Boris bike so I am determined not to break into a sweat. But as a fit(ish) bloke should I really be the slowest cyclist in London? I find the pace people ride at extraordinary. I hope all of them have got a change of clothes or a shower at work because if they haven’t they can’t be doing much good for the image of cycling. I’m all for a ride in lycra or baggies when I’m doing what I might call a serious ride but I really cannot see us making cycling mainstream until everyone can see that cycling is something so much more ordinary.