London is known for its public transportation, for people driving on the left side of the road (objectively WRONG), and for the crazy drivers who are willing to run you over if it means getting to work on time. Learning to navigate the city has been a hectic but rewarding experience, I think after almost two months I’ve finally learned to switch into “go” mode and conquer the busy streets.
Public transportation is a dream! Convenient, cheap, accessible, and our environment will thank us for it. London is known for its efficient public transportation, from the Tube to its red Double Decker buses. The Tube is like a soccer mom you can always count on to take you anywhere, sending you off with a friendly reminder to “mind the gap”. The red Double Decker buses paint a picturesque image of “landmark London” (citing my film professor), and can also get you anywhere, although it may come with a side of nausea. For those of you with tougher stomachs, there is the added thrill of riding on the second level watching as you swallow the smaller cars, some nice entertainment to accompany you on your commute.
Memorize that and you’re set….
Although the learning curve hasn’t been too bad, here are some fun anecdotes of times I seriously messed up the Tube and what I’ve learned:
Epic Fail #1: Went to the wrong station, then went to the correct station but got on the wrong line, going in the wrong direction. Didn’t notice that we were on the wrong line until about 3 stops in, and when we finally noticed, we had travelled from Zone 1 all the way to Zone 4. The zones are based on the distance away from Central London (I almost never have a reason to go past Zone 2), and the price increases as you move into a new zone. Having gone about 30 minutes out of our way, we then had to double back, making a thirty minute commute take almost an hour and a half.
Lesson Learned: Some stations have very similar names (Euston Square vs. Euston Station aren’t the same!), double check you have the right one. Also, sometimes different trains will leave from a single platform: pay attention to what train you are getting on, not just the platform you need to leave from.
Epic Fail #2: My friends and I decided to meet up at King’s Cross Station and then take the Tube together to our yoga class. A simple enough idea, complicated by the fact that King’s Cross is HUGE, and has no service. Finding each other was impossible (we were unsuccessful), and we all ended up on different trains with none of us actually making it to the class.
Lesson Learned: Don’t try and meet up inside a giant tube station. If you are going to meet at a station, wait outside, and specify an entrance. Also, doesn’t hurt to add an extra 15 minutes (or more) to your expected commute time).
Epic Fail #3: While most of the lines are pretty straightforward, the Northern Line is not one of them. It has multiple branches, and of course, some of these branches all split off right around our home station, King’s Cross. On one occasion, my friends and I got on and off various branches of the Northern line about 4 times and ended up back at King’s Cross.
Lesson Learned: As easy as the Tube may be to use, it’s bound to get ya.
Using Our Legs
Biking is extremely common here, and the bikers are FEARLESS. On my way to class, the bike lane is always full of commuters riding in a peloton fit for the Tour De France, decked out in either full elite cycling clothes or their business pants and work shoes. There are city bikes all over the city which can be rented through an app, making them cheap and convenient to use.
Bikes bikes bikes, as far as the eye can see. Taken on my daily trek to school:)
…and of course, walking! Not much room to elaborate, but let’s just say hardly a day goes by where I don’t walk at least 4 or 5 miles. A mile to school, a mile to the grocery store, a stroll through the park. Walking has become my main source of transportation once I came to the realization that using the tube is not quite as cost effective as they make it out to be (1 tube ride = 1 latte at my favorite coffee shop, it comes down to priorities really). This wholesome lifestyle has contributed to a series of blisters which I never let heal, and ultimately to a bunion on my heel. By trying to embrace life as a city gal, and with my runner mentality of pushing through a little walking induced pain, I ended up actually hurting myself. My advice would be to listen to your feet, take the bus when needed, and wear good shoes. Although I myself haven’t taken much of this advice, I have definitely been more conscious of the shoes I am wearing. Turns out my trusty Blundstones aren’t quite as trusty as I thought.
What’s up with the left side thing?
Honestly, I don’t know. I have found that the best way to ensure that I don’t get run over is looking both ways about 5 times. To make matters worse, Jaywalking is legal here, and at the pace that this city moves it is extremely tempting, until you try to cross when it’s red and forget that the cars are actually coming from the other direction. I have become dependent on the little signs on the ground telling you which way to look.
While I can adjust to the drivers on the left side of the road, I have had many a debate with my English friends over the fact that the Londoners haven’t quite decided which rules to follow when walking. On the elevators in the tube stations, the passing lane is the left and the standing lane is the right (just like it would be in the US). The sidewalks are a complete mess of people walking on both sides, a huge inconvenience to me on my runs as I spend half my time dodging people moving left to right.