09 February 2010

Beachy Head, dangerous? Try cycling in London

Beachy Head, yesterday. No, don't worry. Things are bad but they're not quite that bad, yet.

I was visiting rels on the south coast, and what better way to get there than to take a train to Eastbourne and cycle a few miles west around Beachy Head? Well, several dozen, actually, given the weather we had yesterday: wind, mist, sleet, snow, chill, cold. I was getting a bit monosyllabic by the end, too.

Still, from the viewpoint at the Countryside Centre, there was a magnificent view of Beachy Head. Not the cliff, the namesake pub. Everything else was blotted out by the fog.

But there was, at least, the thrilling panorama: of mid-range hatchbacks parked majestically, with blurry couples beyond the steambath windows having tea and sandwiches and listening to Classic FM.

Bracing stuff, though. And the crumbling, overhanging cliff edge in a stiff northerly holds no fear for someone who grapples with the traffic at the Elephant and Castle every day.

And I was puzzled by this sign outside a home on the way there, on the long uphill slog out of Eastbourne town centre. 'Please respect residents and dismount from bicycles', it requests.

Dismounting is showing respect? In that case, London's cycle lanes must be among the most respectful in the world. You have to stop and get off to short-cut bad lights phasing, take the quicker footpath route, walk up the one-way bit, or clamber across roadworks, every five minutes.


  1. Having moved from London to Eastbourne six months ago to buy a B&B, I've discovered cycling nirvana - a complete lack of lunatic cab drivers, air that doesn't taste of diesel and mile upon mile of undulating, traffic-free roads and paths surrounded by mind-blowing scenery.
    Throw the bike on the train and in an hour and a half you find another land.
    I've installed a decent bike store here as well to make life as easy as possible for other cyclists who stay.
    If you ned any feedback/guidance on possible routes leave a comment or visit my site.

  2. Hi @Carl. I was only there for a short trip - say six miles from Eastbourne to East Dean via Beachy Head, and maybe four miles back along the main road - but the traffic I encountered did seem courteous and patient, even on the busy single-carriageway A259.

    As an aside, I get a fair few comments on this blog from people who have no interest in cycling but who have picked up on some keyword in a post and are just spamming some commercial product. I delete those, but I'm happy to promote the *right* sort of commerce in comments, such as well-reviewed bike-friendly B&Bs like Carl's seems to be. (I don't have any connection with him or it.) The link on his name above takes you to his website.

  3. Thanks Rob.
    If anyone is likely to be in the Eastbourne area and is thinking of following your route I suggest they avoid the A259 directly out of town - it's a relentless, leg-busting hill out of town that is used by the all the traffic heading West. Instead, take the scenic route along the sea front (King Edwards Parade) and you get some switchbacks on the way to Beachy Head so you have some breath left to enjoy the amazing views....