…or why I should never be allowed out alone.
It should have been an easy bike ride. Vauxhall to Tower Bridge, then back to home. Most of the route I’d done before, all nice and flat and not too many major right-turn-across-seventeen-lanes-of-snarling-traffic type junctions to negotiate. And, indeed, the ride out was lovely. I found my way with ease. The Cut is now a lovely smooth surface to cycle on, instead of resembling a system of WWI trenches as it has for the last 18 months. There was the odd useful bike lane, for a few hundred yards of the way. The sun even almost came out, on one occasion (it quickly went back in). And then I decided to turn round and head for home.
I’ve noticed this before, cycling in London. Somehow, the journey back is always three times as long as the journey out. And that’s nothing to do with being tired. London’s one-way system borders on the perverse, and is designed to funnel traffic into the big roads and big junctions, rather than let you thread through back streets away from the really scary bits. Throw in the fact that none of its streets seem to meet any other of its streets at a right angle, and a cyclist (me) with no sense of direction whatsoever, and you’ve got a recipe for disaster. The first hint of trouble came when I realised that the shortish hill I was busy powering up, trying to keep pace with the traffic, was in fact the final approach to London Bridge. It’s always a bad sign when you find yourself almost accidentally crossing the Thames. Having got out of that one, carried my bike down some steps, woven my way through the outskirts of Borough market, and more or less oriented myself correctly with the river on my right, I set off again. I found some streets I recognised and cycled with more confidence, planning what I would have for lunch. I got myself onto Union St, which I knew from the journey out took me back to the Cut. And from there, I was home free.
Except. Except. Union St is a one way street. It was a one-way street the way I wanted to go on the way out, and now here it was a one-way street the way I wanted to go on the way back. Hmmm. And not only that, instead of turning into the Cut, here I was suddenly turning right into Borough High St. Again. I still can’t work how it happened. I had somehow turned myself around 180 degrees and I was, in fact, going around in circles.
My contention is that somebody must have moved the streets around while I wasn’t looking. I have long considered that South London’s layout follows the rules of no known earthly geometry, and that fourth or possibly fifth dimensions are brought into play, particularly when using the underpass system at the Elephant. I now, I think, have experimental proof of this theory.
The other half is considering getting me fitted with a tracking device as a precaution. But meanwhile, if you do see a cyclist passing the same spot in the same direction two, three or even four times in a row, you may want to flag her down, ask her where she’s going, and give her some directions. Because there’s every likelihood that it will be me…