A Bicycle Made For Three

Nicola asks:

“I’m thinking of cycling my little girls over to nursery in September, from Westcombe Park (via Foyle Road) to Blackheath. I’m hoping to get a bike with a trailer. Does anyone else do this or know of anyone else doing this? Has anyone found it a scary journey? Is cycling from Greenwich to Blackheath straightforward and easy enough to avoid the dreaded traffic? “

The Phantom replies:

You’d seriously consider cycling two small children up that hill? I just hope you live at the top end of Foyle Road…

Seriously, I’d try borrowing a bike and a heart monitor and giving it a try before you shell out on serious kit like a trailer.

Personally, the most precious thing I’d want to carry on a bicycle would be a baguette and a morning paper, but I know that many people are confident enough to ferry kiddies around on one.

I don’t know much (read “anything”) about trailers, but I’d guess that it would make you a much wider vehicle (read “target”) on our narrow roads. Now, of course, that can make you ‘safer’ – you’re forced to use the road more like a car driver than a cyclist, but you are low down – and your cargo will be even lower.

Okay safety warnings over (for the moment) let’s get onto the route.

Actually, I’d say that if you are only going via Foyle Road rather than from it, it is probably your path of least resistance. It’s slightly longer (or feels like it anyway) than the others, but it also feels shallower and you get the added enjoyment of the most enjoyable topiary in Greenwich.

For the rest of the Greenwich part of the trip, it might be worth nipping through the park – a bit of a long way round but very pretty (and changes with the seasons) and much safer than the road. There are two problems with this – I can’t find a map of designated cycle paths for the park (no wonder everyone cycles everywhere – we really should be told exactly where we can go) and, more annoyingly, the junction where Maze Hill meets Westcombe Park Rd – the high kerbs, mini roundabout, railings and narrow gate – will make this a bit of what my old driving instructor used to call “an ‘azard.”

From there, it’s Duke Humphrey’s Road (stopping for a cup of tea at the ‘ut, perhaps) and Tranquil Vale – but it will take you a long way round, and since I don’t know where your daughters’ school will be, I could be directing in completely the wrong way across the heath.

So here’s a completely different suggestion. (I’m assuming you want to avoid that nasty roundabout.) Turn left at the top of Foyle Road, then right into Beaconsfield Road. From the end, you can either fiddle your way through the back routes through Vanbrugh Park and and the gorgeous Angerstein Lane (warning – rough, unmade surfaces) or follow Vanbrugh Park all the way round.

Your next obstacle will be the A2 – but of course at most times of the day this is at a standstill anyway. Then you can nip down St German’s Place, where the only hazard will be the 4X4s dropping off kiddie-winks at sundry prep schools.

If you need to go further into Blackheath, South Row and Pond Road will take you a relative back route. Shortest isn’t really an option in this instance, given the payload.

It is, as London rides go, a very pretty trip either way (I would avoid the centre route with the roundabout – it’s just too busy) but are you really sure you want to put two small children onto a pushbike? Personally I wouldn’t dream of it, though I will be very happy to hear from brave parents who regularly cycle trolley-loads of neighbours’ kids across the heath.

I know I’m on a downer here. I am SO not anti-cycling. I love it myself, and I seriously think every car (and especially every lorry) driver should also be a cyclist – just so they know how cyclists think.

But it’s been such a short time since our most recent ghost bike. A white bicycle with a trailer would break my heart…


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