Monday, 18 October 2010

The best cycling streets in London (Part 4)

I'm really talking about two streets here- The Mall and Horse Guards Road. To be honest, there isn't much reason for you to ride them in succession- if you are coming from Buckingham Palace and heading for Victoria there are far quicker routes. None compare, however, in grandeur. Beginning at the Palace roundabout you can easily turn your back to the building's squat, beige form and face down the Mall. I'm sure it is very impressive, but something about the architectural style has echoes of the Third Reich for me- too heavy, too...bossy. It might be some latent republicanism, but I can't help thinking that no-one needs that many rooms. 

The road that leads away from it is another matter. The proportions are perfect.  In the distance you can see the glorious swoop of Admirality Arch and a tiny glimpse of Trafalgar Square beyond, getting clearer as you pedal. The wide, wide road is lined with flag poles, often colourfully swagged to honour some visiting dignatory or national celebration. It always feels festive. Most pleasingly The Mall cuts right down the edge of elegant St James Park. In spring and summer the colours of the flowers are exuberant and in autumn the same can be said for the turning leaves. Even in winter the skeletal silhouettes of the trees in the frosty river are more bittersweet than bleak.

Once you've enjoyed zooming along the straight, usually empty street, hang a right before you get to the Arch into Horse Guard's Road. This is where the changing of the guard happens once a day. There's a curvalicious bend for you, more grand buildings, some ungainly pelicans in a pond on your right, and if you're lucky a phalanx of men in red uniforms and big furry hats. All in all, a ride that always reminds even un-patriotic me just how odd, but also brilliant, it is to be British.

Image by Trevor Harris


  1. As much as the view is nice, I'll take the service road alongside it to avoid the nasty taxis and scooters. Perhaps the problem is that I tend to go down it at rush hour...

    Sunday when it's closed to traffic is a much nicer experience!

    Oh, and that's Admiralty Arch not Marble Arch!

  2. Oops- thanks!Will sort that out.

  3. Having got to the end of Horse Guards, turn left and you come to Parliament Square. There's too much traffic to really enjoy cycling during the day, but if you want to continue feeling proud to be British, admire the fact that we allow protestors to encamp directly outside our government buildings. Parliament Square at night, though, with little traffic and Big Ben all lit up, always makes be glad to be on my bike.