By Katelynn Thys | BSU at the Games
There I was, the wind blowing through my hair, a giant smile on my face, riding a rental bike to Tower Bridge in London. I thought I was safe on the bicycle path, even though cars were flying by only a few feet away from me—at least until I head a loud “hooooonk” right behind me. I turned around and my heart dropped as I saw a doubledecker bus heading straight for me.
I was unsure if I was going to live to see another day.
For the first time since arriving in England more than six weeks ago, I felt a wave of uncertainty rush over me. I felt my eyes might pop out of my head when I saw the gigantic bus hovering over me like Tower Bridge itself. I can only imagine the laughter of the people watching as I scurried to peddle as fast as I could to get out of the way.
I wasn’t exactly peddling towards safety, though, as the rest of traffic was zipping by. How was I supposed to know that the bike lanes in London share the same space as the buses? Merging in and out of traffic was difficult, and every time I would signal to get in front of a vehicle or turn right I would hold my breath. Because breathing would cause a distraction, right?
If the cost to travel through this magnificent city wasn’t so high, I never would have had this heart-racing, mind-blowing excursion—all thanks to 1-pound rental bike from Barclays.
I had a few reservations from the beginning. The past month in England, I have learned the English are fast-paced, even when they drive. Watching traffic in London makes downtown Chicago, at rush hour, look like a piece of cake.
Normally, I drive on the right-hand side of the road, but if you didn’t know already, in England they drive on the left At first I only took left-hand turns because I was too scared to even try and attempt to turn right, but after an hour I started to feel a little bit more brave. I mean I couldn’t keep turning left forever when I could be missing out on something that could be … right.
I observed other bicyclers so I would have an idea on what hand motions to make when turning or stopping and simply how to bike through a city that has more traffic than I have ever witnessed in my life. There just doesn’t seem to be any bicycle rules here. I could cut through stopped traffic and ride right between the cars waiting at stop-lights to get to the front of the line, where there is a specific portion of road marked off with a bicycle on it so we could go first.
Riding a bike through London is not something you want to do if you want to have a good hair day. By the end of my four-hour bike ride, my hair had been whipped in every direction and the resulting knots that consumed my head were insanely noticeable. On the positive side, I did get to ride over Tower Bridge, see Big Ben and the London Eye, go down Fleet Street and anywhere else I wanted in the city.
While I was riding across the Tower Bridge I thought to myself, this is a perfect place to take a video on my iPhone so I can show my family back home the exciting things I am doing. So riding down one of the busiest roads/bridges in London, without a helmet, at 5 p.m. when traffic is heaviest, I whipped out my phone and took a 20-second video of myself with the most goofy smile on my face, whooping and hollering because I’m on a bike, on a bridge, in London.
While I was out, I met Pam and Ian Wilson from Chelsea, a small town outside London, who were taking their friends visiting from France, Delphine and Philip Shockey, around the city to show off all the changes that have been done to it since they last visited.
“It’s just so much fun to be able to ride through this great city with my friends,” Pam said. “Especially since there’s loads of people here and some roads are closed, this just seems to be the easiest route.”
To get my rental bike, I just walked up to one of the many big, blue pillars that say “Barclays Bike Hire” and inserted my credit card, with no idea the adventure I was about to begin. On the screen it asked if I wanted to rent a bike for a day, which would cost a pound, or seven days for 5 pounds. Not knowing this would be something I would want to do again, I chose one day, and a little piece of paper printed out a five-digit access code I would need to unlock the bike. Then I just typed in the code, pulled the bike out of the lock and began a day that I will cherish for the rest of my life.
Even if it included the scariest moment of my trip.
Katelynn Thys is a junior telecommunications and journalism major at Ball State University and features reporter for BSU at the Games. Follow Katelynn and the BSU team at@skyismylimit_kt, @bsuatthegames and www.facebook.com/bsuatthegames.