31 August 2010

Plane speaking: Bike to London City Airport

Cycling to visit an airport is usually about as enticing a prospect as dental work with a hangover, but London City Airport is an exception. It's only a few miles from Tower Bridge, and a pleasant run: you can go alongside the Ornamental and Thames much of the way, then through Canary Wharf and over the Lea bridge.

The airport is next to Victoria Dock, a cityscape built by robots for an offworld colony. With ExCel, a strange almost-transporter bridge, clean-cut alien buildings and a curious hidden beach, it offers a city-of-the-future vision from a 1960s boys' annual.

At its eastern end you cross an all-metal footbridge and duck under planes (above right). They abseil down and belay their way up the sky at unusually steep angles, thanks to the cramped runway.

You can park your bike almost opposite the terminal entrance, under cover of the concrete aqueduct that carries the DLR. The modest racks almost give you enough space to lock your bike comfortably, and look more patronised by staff than by citybreakers.

If you're travelling light and flying from London City Airport, bike is a fine way to get there - not that you'd know it from their website. Still, the bike sign is pleasingly Netherlandish.

We didn't actually go in the terminal on our visit yesterday - the coffee costs more than most Ryanair flights - but there's an excellent cafe nearby. Just to the west of here, across the main road, is Thames Barrier Park (right) which has a stylish, inexpensive cafe and coffee shop in the pavilion by the lawns.

So for a budget citybreak, cycle out to the airport, then turn back and stay in London. All the buzz of the airport, the cheapness of a staycation, and the excitement of finding your way round where nobody speaks English.


  1. Nice of you to mention it. I actually commute along this route every day. The bike shed there is, hmm, less then what you'd expect and you get to share it with mopeds. Oh and you've probably experienced the Newham's approach to separated bicycle path along North Woolwich road intersected by industrial driveways, where you have to give way to lorries and then wait for them to join the traffic on the carriageway. Still quite a pleasant ride compared to some,

  2. Looks slightly better than LHR's "bike path shared with oncoming vehicles who might give way if they see the flashing lights" bike path.

  3. Personally, I wasn't that impressed by LCY - www.cyclestreets.net/location/16595/

  4. The "Netherlandish" bike sign seems to have the drive train on the left/wrong side - or is that how they build them in Amsterdam?

  5. @Traditional Bike Club Curmudgeon... blimey, you're quite right. Good spot, there. You'll be telling me the brakes are on the wrong side next.

  6. Personally speaking, this is quite better than a road sharing with other vehicles where the risk is way too high. However, there are people who are not pleasant about this. I wonder why?