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Commuting: Cycling v Scooter in London
James B · June 07, 2017
As both a keen cyclist and scooter rider I feel I'm in a relatively unbiased position to give my biased opinion on both means of transport for commuting.
My journey to taking my CBT and riding a scooter came from the frustration of commuting in London on a pushbike. Turning up to meetings either hot and sweaty or wearing lycra, was taking its toll on me. As a Londoner for almost 4 years, riding the Piccadilly line to work every day had also had its time. If only there was a way I could avoid public transport and the mini Tour de France which is cycling in London rush hour. Time to get a scooter and take my CBT!
So I made the decision to switch from the bicycle to a scooter, although I do still occasionally commute on the pushbike and ride both at the weekends. Anyhow, what are the pros and cons of commuting on a motorcycle vs a bicycle?
Cycling in London
For me cycling in London is one of the most rewarding and dangerous activities you can do on a daily basis. The number of cycling deaths in London last year cries out about the state of cycling in the city. A relatively unknown but equally concerning issue is air pollution. In the mad rush to beat the other rush hour lycra warriors off the line and up the next slip road, you'd inhale what I can only imagine being similar to sucking on the end of an 80's Ford Transit van exhaust. Not quite a healthy exercise...
If you do manage to avoid the taxis, vans and lorries trying to knock you off your bike you've then got to deal with the issue of luggage. How do you carry your change of clothes, laptop, stationery, lunch and favourite ornamental lamp when you're riding a single-speed Raleigh which should belong in a skip? And if you do manage to mount it all on your back like some form of push powered turtle, you then have the awkward outfit change and sink bath routine on the eventual arrival to the less than sufficient office disabled loos.
However, as a weekend and social cyclist, I won't knock one of man's best inventions entirely. Although conducting your daily workout as part of your commute down Oxford Street might not be great for the lungs, it is truly great for the mind. On a bicycle, things happen so much slower than a scooter, and with the now improving cycle lanes in London, you're able to ride through town (at points) without a care in the world, admiring the sights you wouldn't see on the tube whilst taking your time to get to your destination.
Cycling I find is a great mental break between the office and the end or start of the day. Which is hard to find to the same level on a scooter when you need to be so focused on the roads (and other vehicles) at all times.
Other benefits to cycling are it's obviously quite cheap; no fuel, tax or insurance. However, don't underestimate the cost of replacing inner tubes and tyres from all the broken glass you’re cycling over. Trust me it soon adds up. And if you plan to join the racing elite on the commute, you'll be shelling out the same, if not more on all the cycling gear each year.
So how about riding a scooter for commuting?
You've probably guessed my personal preference by now but let's weigh up the pros and cons and see if you agree...
The downside of commuting on a scooter for me falls into 2 categories. direct and indirect challenges. direct challenges for me are in your face; namely the weather, traffic and parking.
The weather is something you can’t do too much about, if you’re commuting on anything 2 wheeled, get a good coat, gloves and neck warmer and the winter is bearable.
Traffic, especially in London as mentioned for cycling is busy. Like really busy. Filtering on a motorbike gives you the satisfaction of beating all the cars to your destination, but also comes with its own risks. If I’m riding a long way across town during rush hour, it’s a tiring experience, you need to be so switched on. If you’re fortunate to be able to ride out of commuter time, it’s a different story and can be a gentle cruise through town.
How about parking? Again a unique London challenge, the word about commuting by scooter got out some number of years ago, nowadays if you’re hoping to find a parking spot in a motorcycle bay in the City during the week, you better pack your breakfast and arrive for 7 am. The motorcycle bays in London are hugely underfunded and as more people get on the road (awesome) the more competitive finding a parking spot for your pride and joy becomes (not so awesome).
So how about ‘indirect’ challenges of commuting by scooter? For me these are the barriers to getting and staying on 2 wheels. Rising crime rates in the UK for motorcycle theft is an issue in itself and also for insurance premiums. If insurance prices continue to rise, commuting by scooter, whether on a full licence or a CBT licence, will start to look less and less feasible.
Then there are the costs of getting started; comparable to a basic push bike the costs of getting a scooter on the road soon add up; CBT training, helmet, gloves, bike, insurance, tax and servicing. If you’re new to it as well it can be quite mind-boggling! Read our beginners guide for more advice.
If you wanted to, you could quite easily drop £7,000 or more getting on the road, just on a CBT licence! However, if you’re wise with your research, come to RideTo to get in the know, then you can do it for way cheaper.
And the upside of commuting by scooter!?
For me, in every way, a pushbike falls down. On my Vespa, I can get to a meeting pretty much anywhere in central London in 30 minutes. I’ll arrive wearing my choice of attire, zero sweat, zero lycra, zero stress. I’ll leave my helmet in my bike along with my other crap and I’ll stroll into the meeting having parked right outside (sometimes) like an absolute boss. Parking? That’s free (outside of Westminster). Traffic? Not an issue, effort? None at all. I’ll then swing by and pick my girlfriend up on the way home and we’ll head down to our favourite pub by the river. Easy days.
So the answer is?
I’m a firm believer that most people’s stress in London comes from commuting/ public transport and the rush it sweeps you up in. Whatever 2 wheel vehicle you choose to commute on and I hope you try both, you can rest assured you're saving time, money and a stressed induced meltdown versus those stuck in a car on public transport.
Here's a picture of the tube I had to catch yesterday:
If you're looking to get onto two wheels but not sure where to start, why not take our getting started survey