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Green Living

Simon Usborne: Why, when theft is rife in our cities, is it so difficult to find safe places to leave our bikes?


'The Independent' has moved offices. No difference for you, but for us hacks who toiled for years in the concrete wasteland of South Quay, in the tatty outskirts of Canary Wharf, on the windswept backwater that is east London's Isle of Dogs, it's nothing short of life-changing. Where once we worked on a road whose brightest outlets included NatWest and a branch of Office Angels, we have now shipped due west across the capital to High Street Kensington, home to things called restaurants, shops, parks and real people. I can only imagine the feeling is like that of early Italian settlers sailing into Manhattan past the Statue of Liberty. Well, almost.

Of course it does mean a new route to work. I knew the last one like the back of my handlebars – an easy, quick but boring tour of south London. Now I sprint past Battersea Park, vault across Chelsea Bridge and rocket up Sloane Street before forking off past Hyde Park and the Royal Albert Hall on the way to our swanky new digs. And there are countless variations I'll be experimenting with. Either way, it's 10 miles and 45 minutes of some of London's nicest sights. It's also half an hour quicker (not to mention 30 quid a week cheaper and approximately 93 per cent more pleasant) than travelling by train and tube.

My only gripe: bike parking. Why, when theft is so rife in our cities – and when cycling is supposedly the way to get around – is it so difficult to find safe places to leave our rides? Reluctant to rely on lampposts, I've been scouting secure car parks, of which there is no shortage in our cities. But when I ask about bike parking, they look at me as if I want to stable a horse. Am I missing something, or are urban car parks not the ideal place to install some bike racks, perhaps subsidised by councils or even employers? No more stolen rides, no more bike-rack clutter on our pavements, and no more armpit-sniffing on the Circle Line.

Back on the road, I'm also getting to know (by sight – I don't chat) a new crowd of bike commuters. We chaps seem to struggle not to get competitive but it doesn't always go to plan. Last week I was zooming up Sloane Street only to be overtaken by a man on a Brompton wearing a luminous tabard. The shame of it!

s.usborne@independent.co.uk or see independent.co.uk/cyclotherapy