When a policeman on duty yells at you like a sergeant-major on a parade ground:

“OI!   YOU!!   OFF  THE  ROAD!!”

………….you actually get off the road a bit sharpish, even if you’re riding a Boris bike and have been mistakenly got involved in some sort of military parade through London.

We didn’t mean to go showboating on closed roads in front of tourists packed ten deep on the pavements of the Mall, honest guv.

It was supposed to be a pleasant, if somewhat random,  Saturday morning Boris bike tootle to Hyde Park from Covent Garden. Picked up some bikes near the back of Covent Garden, down to the Strand and round abouts, then a swap at Trafalgar Square, along Pall Mall (I think) and then stopped to hear a super regimental band playing in a yard at St James’s Palace.

Traffic had been halted and there were people standing listening to the band play The World In Union, which was very apt as we had tickets to the big England v Wales Rugby World Cup match at Twickenham that evening.

Unexpectedly, the band marched out of the yard and along the road, so we hopped back on the bikes – honestly, the saddles of Boris bikes are like luxuriously upholstered like *sofas* – and followed on behind two police horses.

I wasn’t expecting to turn right on to the Mall. Or for it to be closed off to everything but the procession, the police horses and.. er… us.

It was a rather self-conscious slow pedal, suppressing giggles and probably blushing a bit, studiously avoiding riding too close to the horse in front or through fresh horse muck.

I wasn’t sure why everyone had turned out or why we were following the band or where we were going but with police controlling the crowds on the pavement, we didn’t have much option but to keep going, smirking and feeling a bit surreal.

If there was an occasion which demanded an ostentatious Peter Sagan wheelie, this was it. If I could’ve, I would’ve but in the real world I was riding a two-tonne (hyperbole alert) Boris bike with my handbag in the basket on the front and anyway, who am I kidding? The only wheelie I’ve ever pulled was a three-incher.

The only other time I’ve cycled in front of an audience was at a stage of the Tour de France in Brittany, where early in the day, we’d found a deserted spot on a hillside to pull the car over in readiness for the race coming through later. We got the bikes out and cycled into the nearest village to get some breakfast and buy stuff for a picnic lunch.

French villages are never less than appealing, so it was nearly two hours later that we set off again for the car along a road which was busy with people walking to see the race. When we turned on to the bottom of the hill, it was now closed to traffic and busy with Tour supporters and officials.

We had to cycle up the hill laden with carrier bags clanking with wine and baguettes, saucisson and fromage to cheers from a loud and friendly crowd which was clearly cycling-starved. “Allez Les Anglaises!! ” will live with me for a long time.

Anyway, as I said when a policeman yells for you to get off the road, you kind of do, without hesitation, deviation or repetition and in much less than just a minute.

But as I got off and pulled my bike in tight to the kerb, and Captain Sensible followed suit, the policeman shouted again.


By now, there was traffic behind us so we were heading it all up at the lights before we resisted the temptation to follow the band into the front yard of Buckingham Palace and instead nipped off down Buckingham Palace road.

Don’t ask where we rode after that but somehow we docked the bikes at Hyde Park within 30 minutes and took out another couple to have a ride around the park, including a refreshment stop at the cafe on the Serpentine where the herons are as tame as the ducks and the geese.

I don’t care what people say about London but it still has enormous charm for me when I’m on a bike or on foot. Being in a car is a nightmare but the slower forms of transport are ideal on summy warm autumn days.

The Santander Cycles app for mobiles was very good. You can plan a journey and it gives you easy, moderate or fast routes and tells in real time how many bikes are available at each docking station.  It cost me £2 to register for the day and that was it!  Because we docked the bikes within 30 minutes each time there was no further charge.

One downside was the ten minute wait before you could get the next bike out.  The other downside was that it was impossible to follow the route on the map when cycling but I read that someone has invented a useful little widget for the handlebars which would give you simple ‘sat nav’ style directions for turnings Blu-toothed to the app on the phone in your pocket.   It’s being crowd-funded at the moment so there’s hope that it will be in production next year.

The Santander Cycle scheme goes out as far as Hammersmith now, which is great and takes in Putney but I think there’s scope to extend it even further. It would be fab to ride out to Kew Gardens and Syon House. Maybe one day.





About janh1

Part-time hedonist.
This entry was posted in Cycling and tagged , , , , , , , , , , , . Bookmark the permalink.

19 Responses to ‘Oi, YOU!! OFF THE ROAD!!”

  1. Isobel says:

    I know that heron! Was the policeman on a horse? The mounted police really tell tourists off when they walk into the road to photograph the changing of the guard.

    London is, quite simply, the best city in the world. Have you tried the Citymapper app? It’s free and very good.

  2. janh1 says:

    Hi Isobel. Who is it then? Henry Heron, Huxley Herons of the Hyde Heronry? 🙂 He was very chilled indeed!

    Policewomen were on the horses and the policeman who shouted – and he was extremely loud- was controlling crowds at the roadside. But the crowds are so huge that they don’t listen very readily. It took the police AGES to get the crowds off the pedestrian crossing!

    Can you tell me what was happening that day Isobel? I tried to look it up but failed dismally. Surely the regimental band don’t go and play at the front of the Palace every Saturday? Was it connected with the world cup? Any info would be interesting.

    No I haven’t tried that app but will look at it right now. Thanks 🙂

    • Isobel says:

      We are not on first name terms, but there are a couple of herons who enjoy posing in St James’. And did you notice how bold the moorhens are? Usually such shy birds, in St James’ they are used to people from the moment they hatch and completely unbothered.

      • janh1 says:

        None of the birds seemed at all bothered by people. I love moorhen chicks, don’t you? Teeny smudges of soot strutting on massive over-sized black feet!

    • Isobel says:

      There is usually a band, and during Oct there’s a guard change alternate days. It is a pretty wonderful spectacle.

      You can tell when the action is about to start when the mounted police move into position. One mounted police officer always leads the band. I have a favourite grey police horse who dances.

      BTW when the mounted police aren’t busy, they are very happy for you to make friends with their horses. I usually carry a packet of polos.


  3. Darrel Kirby says:

    I just followed the link to read about your previous Boris Bike experience – no unexpected charges this time I hope! Sounds like fun, but as Mrs K is even less enthusiastic than me about cycling I can’t see us giving it a go. Wouldn’t be so bad if they closed all the roads for us though…

  4. Isobel says:

    Oh do read it. It is a wonderful book.

  5. Isobel says:

    Oops sorry for non sequitur. Thought I was replying to a comment on my page…

  6. janh1 says:

    I wouldn’t have the nerve 🙂

  7. Sarah says:


    • janh1 says:

      I’m glad. 🙂 If you do have a go, it’s dead easy to unlock the bikes by keyed in the code, then lift the seat of the bike and let it drop so that the bike sort of bounces out of the rack.

  8. sabinaA says:

    Loved the picture of the heron Jan, he has personality, how come you seem to bring out the inner charm in animals? That turtle has eyes eager to speak and this heron looks so full of self importance. Brilliant.

Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in:

WordPress.com Logo

You are commenting using your WordPress.com account. Log Out /  Change )

Google photo

You are commenting using your Google account. Log Out /  Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out /  Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out /  Change )

Connecting to %s