London’s Underground network is the lifeline of the people staying in and around London. Never had I wondered before, that what would happen if the whole thing came to a halt? Well, it seemed to be a nightmare and unfortunately (well not completely though) a similar situation was faced by Londoners a few days back. Though it was not completely stopped but almost 80 percent train network was shut down for a strike which many of you might be surprised to know that it cost the government almost a loss of £200 million. Whoa! That’s a lot of money one might wonder. Well, that is not the thing which I am about to describe in detail but wanted to share a fact.
I would say I got to explore London like never before. A two day strike was announced mid week which is like the peak days of the week. People say that London literally comes to a halt when the so called lifeline stops working as people have very limited choices to travel. Of course, there are buses but one cannot rely wholly on them partly because it takes like ‘ages’ (not literally!) to travel by a bus as compared to the London’s very own underground ‘Tube’.
So, I decided to plan ahead because of the planned strikes and I couldn’t afford to miss college a single day. As, we receive email newsletters from the TFL (Transport for London) regarding the alternate routes we can plan our journey for, TFL encouraged to make use of the famous ‘Boris Bikes’. Well, for many of you who might not be aware of the Boris bikes, these are the bicycle systems introduced by the Mayor Boris Johnson in the year 2010 which was modeled on a similar system implemented in Paris. It’s also called as Barclays Cycle Hire as it is the main sponsor for the system. A quick fact about the bicycle hire: A record, 47,105 cycles were hired on a single day during the Olympics of 2012 in London.
Well, anyways this system was specifically quite new for me and I was pretty amazed by the system. Well, the system works as follows: We can hire the bicycle at a mere cost of £2 (I would say mere because it’s relatively still cheaper than the other modes of transport in London!) for a period of 24 hours and you can use debit card to make the payment. You can use the bicycle for free up to 30 minutes and if you happen to cross the limit of 30 minutes, its £1 additional. Though, after my experience you can reach any destination in less than 30 minutes if it is located in Central London.
So, I decided that I’ll do part of my journey by bus and part by the bicycle. I was reluctant initially, as first of all, I wasn’t used to the roads in London and riding a bicycle after so many years made me nervous. But, I decided to stick to my plan and go for it. I had planned to that after the college hours as I didn’t wanted to be late for the class and as I said, I was not that accustomed to the London roads. So, after the class, I walked up to the nearest cycle dock at Victoria Embankment and hired a bicycle with the help of a kiosk which is again pretty easy to use.
With a lot of hesitation and reluctance I put headphones and tuned it to my favorite playlist. I rode upon the bike and forgot everything else. The initial reluctance was soon forgotten and I lost into the beautiful weather and the ambience of the beautiful Victorian architecture. I decided to go via the Waterloo Bridge which is one of the many bridges across river Thames in Central London. I had to stop here to get the beautiful view. The free flowing Thames and the boats on one side and London eye and Westminster Abbey on the other side…the view was scintillating. This made me feel that I was indeed in London. I saw the city from a complete different perspective. This was the first time when I actually could appreciate the beauty of this city.
As quoted by Dr. Samuel Johnson, a famous writer
“When a man is tired of London, he is tired of life; for there is in London all that life can afford”
I could really feel the meaning of these lines when I had one of such an unusual yet a beautiful journey through the streets of London. It was then I realized that people at times really don’t appreciate the beautiful and small things in life they have around themselves and meanwhile running after other irrelevant things in life. Though, that would be quite philosophical on my part but it was only after I experienced this I could realize. It had been almost 5 months and I have travelled the same old path since then travelling via the underground. Of course, that made my journey comfortable and convenient but although the path I had treaded that day may not have been of such a convenience but I must say that it was worthwhile and a treat to my heart.