in 250 words
Steven R Malikowski
A street map of London looks like someone boiled a pot of spaghetti and dropped it. The roads are rarely straight, which is chaotic and charming. The feeling continues at street level. Double-decker buses lumber along. Cars wander toward gaps in traffic, and taxis make gaps by pushing ahead.
Those are some of the big movers. The little movers have their own style. People in Britain’s best suits walk to work. Shoppers haul bags, and nobody knows what tourists might do. They can rush to a bus, suddenly stop for a selfie, or wander into the street while reading a map.
My favorite group pedals through all that. We’re the cyclists. The winding streets make it impossible to navigate London from memory, especially since the same street often changes its name. So cyclists often glance at a GPS and wander by walls created by double-decker buses, inches from each elbow. Other times, we compete for gaps in traffic with cars and taxis, but the most challenging part is the tourists. I enjoy talking with some at stoplights, but they worry me. More than anyone on wheels or feet, tourists can instantly change direction, quietly wander into a street, or stop there for a selfie.
I used to think it was insane to cycle in London, but I took inspiration from little old ladies calmly cycling on busy streets. With patience and practice, I cycled as well as them and loved the city even more.