Car, bus, train or bike – what’s the best for commuting?
Now, I’m confident most of you will be familiar with the pains of commuting on public transport in London, but having worked locally all of my life, I’d never properly experienced the infamous ‘rush hour’ in the capital. Instead, all of my conclusions had been drawn from the daily gripes I’d often see on social media, where complaints of too hot, too packed and too late were usually the crux of most people’s frustrated outbursts.
However, rather than sympathising with my fellow Facebook friends, I always wondered, why not just ride a bike instead? There had to be a good reason why so many choose to commute by train, bus and even in their own cars. Was it quicker, more comfortable, maybe? Thirsty for answers, I decided to test each of the aforementioned modes of transport for speed, comfort, and cost, primarily. Starting at Bike Shack Leyton (which is close to local bus and train services) and ending at Tower Bridge (where there are plenty of office workers), read on to find out how I fared commuting on the much-maligned transport of London.
Here’s my chosen cycling route, mapped out on Google. At a total of 5.7 miles, it’s going to take approximately 36 minutes to complete my journey, apparently.
Taking the route shown above, I began my journey at good speed, managing to avoid a few red lights in the early stages of the commute. After negotiating some traffic along Eastway next to the Olympic Park, I reached Victoria Park which, with the early morning sunshine on my face, was particularly pleasant to ride through. The next part of the journey was something of a race between myself and fellow commuting cyclists, which was enjoyable (and one that I totally won). Despite bad road conditions in places and a cyclist with a puncture at the roadside providing a stark reminder of the cost of commuter cycling, the rest of the ride was pretty smooth. I joined the CS3 cycle route towards the latter part of the journey, passing over Tower Bridge to reach my destination. That was pretty quick, I thought to myself as I checked my watch for how long it’d taken me. 26 minutes in total was, in fact, a whole 10 minutes quicker than the time Google Maps had predicted. If I had an actual office to enter, I’d have arrived feeling pumped and ready for the day ahead, albeit rather sweaty.
- Great exercise
- Pumped and motivated
- Showering/changing at work
While there are other routes to London Bridge, I took the quickest (according to Transport for London), beginning on the Central Line from Leyton to Bank, and then changing to the Northern Line for one stop to London Bridge. While I managed to get onto the packed train straight away, I was instantly swallowed by a sea of sweaty commuters. Being the height of summer, it was pretty damn hot, and I could feel my brow sweating as my nostrils began to fill with the scent of someone who’d chosen not to wash for the past week. Not a great start! By the time I’d arrived at Bank I was hot, flustered and expectant of some respite from the heat, at least once I’d got off the train. It wasn’t to be, as I soon realised that Bank is most likely the hottest train station in the entire world! Making my way to the Northern Line platform amongst the swathe of bodies, I think I was probably sweating more at this point than I had been while cycling! Despite only having one stop to travel, I did manage to get a seat on the Northern Line so I arrived having cooled down a little, but at a total cost of £3.80 for the pleasure. Seeing as most commuters will make the return journey each day, I used my wealth of mathematical knowledge to work out that a daily commute using this route would cost me £7.60 a day - that’s nearly £40 a week! Aside from the cost, it’d taken me a total of 24 minutes to reach London Bridge - two minutes quicker than cycling! However, factor in the time it took to walk to the station, and from the station to my would-be office, and overall, my journey time stood at a grand total of 39 minutes - a whole 13 minutes longer than it took to cycle!
- Hot during summer months
Leaving Bike Shack Leyton, I walked to the bus stop where I saw the W15 bus I needed to catch pulling away from the stop. Typical, I muttered, having been reminded of one reason why I dislike and often avoid the bus. Upon seeing another arrive some 10 minutes later, I felt a brief twinge of optimism and relief that was swiftly extinguished by how damn busy it was. Nevertheless, I made my way on and huddled up alongside my fellow passengers. The time it took to reach Hackney Town Hall where my next carriage would (probably not) await felt like an age. It had in fact been 36 minutes, which, spent stop-starting amongst beeping traffic, is pretty much a lifetime. Luckily, I was proven wrong as the 48 bus I required rolled into the stop just as I did. This time, I made my way to the upper deck where there were fewer people and plenty of seats. Shuffling down the aisle, I plotted up against the window and let myself doze off, safe in the knowledge that my stop wasn’t for quite some time. Around half an hour later I awoke from my half-slumber rather confused as to where I was. I didn’t have a clue if I’d passed my stop, so embarrassingly, I went downstairs to enquire if we’d passed London Bridge yet. The guy I asked, rather brashly told me that it was the last stop on the route so no, we clearly hadn’t. Great. My journey time thus far was already over an hour and 10 minutes, meaning I was late for the job (that I don’t have) and I’d just put my hand in something sticky on the handrail. Buses are not cool! Finally arriving somewhere near to London Bridge station, I decided to run the rest of the journey to claw back some time, in the hope that my fictitious boss wouldn’t have my balls in a blender for being so late. While I originally thought that I might manage to avoid arriving like a sweaty mess for the third consecutive commute, my impromptu run meant that I didn’t. I clocked the entire journey time at a whopping 1 hour and 39 minutes, at a cost of £3. If I’d have known the time it took I’d have certainly been able to arrive at work on time, but for the time it does take, I can’t see why people bother. Safe to say, I got the train home.
- You’ll get to your destination, eventually
- Good for extra shut eye
- Time consuming
So, after three days of alternative commuting, I was pretty happy to embark on my final trip in the comfort of my own car. With a cup of hot coffee in the drinks holder, I set off while singing along joyously to the chart music on the radio. Having already planned my route on Google Maps, I’d been told the journey would only take 25 minutes, without traffic. While there were even quicker alternatives, I elected the toll-free route via the A106 because there’s no way I’d pay a toll on top of petrol costs if I was an actual commuter. The route wasn’t too dissimilar to the one I’d cycled, however, I’d certainly made less progress in the car than I had on the bike - damn traffic. Once I’d emerged from the congestion, the rest of the drive was pretty smooth sailing, bar a few red lights. By the time I’d passed over Tower Bridge, the journey time stood at a respectable 32 minutes, but where to park? I’m sure I’d have found somewhere quickly with prior planning, but it took me a further 30 minutes to find a spot which was ages from my made-up workplace! In order to keep the test fair, I only added an extra five minutes to the journey time to account for my lack of research, bringing me up to a grand total of 37 minutes for my journey. Parking, costs and some traffic aside, I could certainly get used to driving to work, but it’s really quite lazy, isn’t it?
- Fairly quick
- Bad for the environment
- Lack of parking
So there you have it. A comprehensive report on the various forms of commuter transportation in London. While you may previously have avoided the bike, there are no excuses that will wash with us now folks! If we haven’t yet convinced you, check out Toby’s story of how cycling to work changed his life. With Cycle to Work Day returning on 14th September 2016, there’s no better time to get started with commuter cycling. To help you all on your way, we’re giving away commuter cycling kits and saddlebags. Just like and share this post to enter!