Friday, 9 April 2010

I went for a ride in London yesterday....

The sun was out, the skies were blue, the temperature was warm. What a perfect day for a ride!

I wanted to test my GoPro camera in a city, so I chose London - My City. I was born here and have lived here all my life. So I fixed the camera to the bike, checked I had a full battery and I headed south into Central London.

I love My City. It is so lively, so full of things to do and see. So full of culture and the arts. So full of magnificent buildings. So full of life.

Yesterday, so full of traffic!!! So full of tourists!!! The latter were nice to see. The former wasn’t.

I have cut down 2 hours of film into the highlights of the ride. Squeezing London into 10 minutes isn’t easy, but I enjoyed the ride and making the video. I hope you enjoy watching it.

You will see a few things worthy of a small note....

The Amphibious Tour Bus is called The Duck. It is unlike any other bus tour in London as after driving on the streets for a while, it plunges into the River Thames!

You will see Horseguards Parade, which is a large square often used for Royal and State occasions. This is going to be the location for the Beach Volleyball in the London 2012 Olympic Games.

The London Eye is 135 metres (442 ft 11 in) in diameter and is the largest observation wheel in the world. It has become the most popular tourist attraction in the United Kingdom, visited by over three million people in one year. The construction management company I used to be a director of built the London Eye. It was quite a challenge!

At the end of the video is Tower Bridge, which I rode across. The wide angle lens of the GoPro makes it look squat. It is actually taller than it appears.

Lane splitting is legal in the UK. Just in case you were wondering.

I know there doesn’t seem like there is much traffic in the video. Believe me, there was – I simply didn’t include it in the final video!

I think the camera performed well. The only problem was I wrapped a strip of cloth around the handlebars to protect it when I fixed the camera. This has caused a “bounce” effect when I rode over bumps. A lesson learned.

For the best effect, turn your volume up!


bobskoot said...


Even tho you said lane splitting was legal, I shuddered. And I also like the way you nearly ran over those poor slow walking pedestrians. I felt like a movie star with all those cameras pointed at me.

I was very nice to see some of the traffic, sights and how the traffic flows in the city.

I'm getting to like your bike, I almost get the sensation of riding with you and I suppose after a while you get used to all the cameras pointing your direction

Wet Coast Scootin

Chris Luhman said...

Nice video Gary. Thanks for the tour. I wish we had lane splitting! We have the "ducks" in the US too. I've been on at least three of them in various cities. They were all quite fun.

Were you filming in r5? The bounce effect in the video looks like the jello effect I get when I use r5. The image shakes rather than the camera. r2/r3 seem correct it for me.

Gary France said...

Bob - I thought the lane splitting might draw some comments. It wasn't quite as small a gap as the camera seems to show. It is ll part of riding a bike in the UK and every biker does it because it means you can get to the front of almost every queue of cars and then be the first away from the lights - a real advantage in major cities like London.

The pedestrians in London take every opportunity to cross roads even when they shouldn't. The part when the kids had been crossing the road and stopped to take pictures is a classic example. The kids had right of way as the traffic lights were red and the pedestrian crossing light was green - all ok. But then, as is common in London, some people start to walk across the road when the light for them is red and the traffic starts to move. Due to the fact that London streets are narrow, they think they can cross anywhere at any time irrespective of what the lights show. Nearly all Londoners cross the roads like this and everybody keeps an eye out for each other. Vehicle drivers and pedestrians alike know the un-official rules! It does make spotting a tourist very easy - they are the ones standing at the side of the road for a long time, waiting for the crossing signals to be in their favour!

I could claim to personally be the focus of all that attention, but of course it really is the bike - custom bikes like that are quite rare in London, so people like to look and some like to take photos. I have got used to it now.

I am glad that you were able to come along for the ride!

Chris - Whenever I have ridden in the US, I have to constantly remind myself not to lane split - it is just so natural in almost every European country. In fact, I cannot think of a single country on this side of the Atlantic where it doesn't happen. IT can save an enormous amount of time on really busy streets.

I have just looked at my camera and it is on R2. Having looked at the finished video again, I can see that the jello bouncing is at its worse when I am too high a gear and the revs are low - this causes quite a lot of vibration on my bike - I think that is the problem. I will try it again next week and stick to lower gears and see if that makes a difference.

I should fix my camera on the front of a duck and go on a tour! Obviously in its waterproof case. That could make quite a good video!

Canajun said...

Gary - Great video. Brought back lots of fond memories of London. Thanks.

Willy D said...

What are the ‘squiggly’ white lines on the road?
You made those kids day.
That was one fine video, thanks. Lane-splitting is legal here in Calif.

Gary France said...

Canajun - I am glad that it stirred the memory cells.

Willy - Those lines are known as Zig-Zags over here and they are normally just before and just after a pedestrian crossing. They show that you arenot allowed to park there in order not to block the view of people crossing the road. THey are very strictly policed and they work - very few people ever stop there.

Those kids seemed very happy and enjoying their day out - I think they were French. If I am parked somewhere and a kid asks me about my bike, I will let them sit on it. A lot of bikers wont do that for fear of getting it scratched, but they get such a buzz from sitting on it, that providing they are careful, I don't let it worry me.

I will have to study which States you can do what in before I start my tour as a reminder!

chessie said...

Gary, I haven't seen London since I was 7. All I can say is... What the heck happened? LOL never mind I know... it's still a shock to "don't know s**t" any more.

Looking forward to see you well...

Radar said...


Wow, we now know the real Gary France...between the constant (cleverly disguised) paparazzi shots and being being paid to build the wheel; we definitely have a genuine celebrity in our midst!

I have had the pleasure to travel to London on numerous occasions for business and leisure, but have never had the opportunity to tour by motorcycle. That was great! I share you love of London, there is simply no other city in the world quite like it. But once I had the chance, I found that I enjoy traveling the countryside even more!

Perhaps I will add a motorcycle tour of the UK to my bucket list!

Gary France said...

Chessie - London is one of those cities that is constantly changing. In fact, wait a minute - working in construction in London, I helped to change it! To be honest, having lived and worked in London all my life, you get see the changes happening without really seeing the difference. It takes somebody who hasn't seen it for a while to notice the differences.

Radar - No, not a celebrity. Perhaps well known in my field, but not a celebrity. People simply like the bike I was riding, not the rider! I agree with you about the countryside, for it is much better than riding in the city. I showed the best parts of riding in London. There were times when the traffic was so bad, that I could sit in the same spot for 5 minutes. At one point it took me about 15 minutes to enter and depart from Parliament Square - hopeless, but I chose not to show you the bad bits.

Young Dai said...


You passed one of my former places of work in The Treasury Buildings. The PS / Horseguards road works are and have been, a 'reet pain in the bum' for a couple of years now. I suppose it is all to prevent truck bombers post 7/7, but their most immediate affect was to add 10 minutes to my journey home each night.

How did your Road King ride along Ludgate Hill and around St Pauls ?

The combined efforts of winter, Thames Water and those wretched bendi-buses have so cratered and smashed the road surface that I almost want to be on a GS or some Street Scambler than my bike while riding through the Square Mile to the A13.

I have never seen the road so clear around Harrods as you saw , it was always stuffed solid when ever I went passed.

One other little thing, the zig-zag marking also define a no-overtaking zone over and around pedestrian crossings. DAMHIK but applying London Rules when filtering over a zebra crossing in South Wales a while back earned me a little roadside chat and all that follows on from that.

Chris Luhman said...

Gary, Lane splitting is only legal in California. Not in any other state. :(

Gary France said...

Dai – I have to admit that the sheer volume of roadworks currently happening took me by surprise. They seemed to be everywhere. The ride on Ludgate Hill was very slow because only half the road is open (due to roadworks!) making it one-way eastbound. It was stuffed full of buses so no chance of riding up the middle of the road because of the roadworks. I was actually on my custom bike, but that didn’t make any difference – still bad. I agree about the condition of the roads – there are some real boneshakers out there, so something has to be done quickly.

Harrods was exceptionally clear for for reason. Perhaps all the cars were stuck in roadworks elsewhere! You are right about no overtaking on the Zig-Zags. I had forgotton that. Ah, the little roadside chat – I haven’t had one of those for a while.

Chris – Thanks for the info about lane splitting. Can I ask exactly what is defined as lane splitting in most States? Is it a) riding between 2 lanes of other vehicles travelling in the same direction as you when those are vehicles are moving, b) riding between 2 lanes of other vehicles travelling on the same direction as you when those are vehicles are stationary, c) riding down the centre of the road between oncoming vehicles travelling in the opposite direction and stationary vehicles travelling travelling in the same direction, d) all of the above?

iansolley said...

...damn and to think I had to pass on joining you for this ride! - Weather and sites are superb - having lived and worked in London for 25 years its very familiar - but I love the City and the sights too, and its brilliant to see it all again from a bike perspective. I think we should make this video again one nighttime - and you can edit my video into yours!

Chris Luhman said...

Gary, as far as I know. All of the above are specifically forbidden in every state except CA.

The American Motorcycle Association (AMA) has a great resource on the different state laws:

For Minnesota here is the language:
169.974 Motorcycle, motor scooter, motor bike Table of contents for Chapter 169 (e) No person shall operate a motorcycle between lanes of moving or stationary vehicles headed in the same direction, nor shall any person drive a motorcycle abreast of or overtake or pass another vehicle within the same traffic lane, except that motorcycles may, with the consent of both drivers, be operated not more than two abreast in a single traffic lane.

Gary France said...

Ian – that was another good days riding that you missed! Hmmn - not sure about doing it at night, but we should go out one day soon.

Chris – thanks for that. It is very clear to me now. In some ways I can understand the law that says you cannot go between moving vehicles, for that sort of makes sense of the basis of just being safe. I do have to wonder however why the authorities made it illegal to go between stationary vehicles. Ok, for many people this won’t really affect them, but for those bikers who live in cities, this must be very frustrating.

It looks as if I should be reviewing the AMA website each time I enter a new State – thanks for the link.

Chris Luhman said...

Yea, it's pretty annoying, but not much that can be done. Motos are about 1% of the traffic over here, so they don't make any special concessions.

682202 said...


Great video, love the kids stopping in the middle of the road to snap a photo.


Gary France said...

GAW - I've got to admit, I love it when that happens. It is very odd, but when I am on the bike, say stopped at lights people just snap away. When I am standing next to it, say just after re-fuelling, people always ask if they can take a photo of it. Strange, but both make me smile inside.

Gary France said...

Chris – back the truck up for a second! It sounds to me as if they have made some pretty big concessions to discriminate against motorcyclists! I cannot claim to know much about US law, but it seems to me that 49 States would have had to put that law in place that makes lane splitting illegal. This is a law that bans something, so it is not like they need to make a concession to allow it, because they have already made their decision.

OK, we have to split these laws into 2 parts. I sort of agree with the fact that motorcycles shouldn’t be allowed to lane split when the other vehicles are moving. That is just common sense and it will prevent accidents, so I wouldn’t have any complaints there. However, it is a totally different story when the other vehicles are stationary. So there I am as an American motorcyclist. I am sitting there in heavy traffic that isn’t going anywhere. The lane is plenty wide enough for me to lane split. I can travelling quite safely on that piece of road that my taxes have paid for. It happens to be between or next to another car. But I am not allowed to because the law makers in 49 of the States have said I cannot. Why is this? I bet I understand the real reason – car driver jealousy. As 99% of the road users don’t ride motorcycles, they don’t like the fact that motorcyclists have a time advantage when if lane splitting! I cannot think of a single other reason.

If somebody over here proposed a law banning lane splitting, there would be huge protests and I doubt the law would ever get passed. Motorcyclists are a pretty vocal group that tends to stand together over here and we are supported by some excellent motorcycling press. There was a legal case over here recently where a car driver deliberately blocked the progress of a biker who was lane splitting. It seems the car driver was annoyed the bikers were getting an advantage by lane splitting, so he decided to try to block one, causing an accident by forcing the biker into another vehicle. The car driver was found guilty and was sent to prison for 8 months.

As you said, I imagine most bikers find the no lane splitting laws pretty annoying. Does anybody or any group ever try to change the laws affecting bikers in the States?

Chris Luhman said...

Gary, Yes, I think there is discrimination against motorcyclists, but I think everything is so aimed at cars that some of it is unintentional. I bought an annual parking pass for Minnesota state parks over the weekend. First they tried to sell me a giant sticker to put on my windshield... My SV doesn't have a windshield. Then they gave me a little hunk of plastic the size of a credit card and I'm supposed to show it upon request. If I get a parking ticket, I can show it to get it removed. What a hassle!

I see two groups acting as lobbyists to change laws. The AMA, who I think is doing a good job, and ABATE. Right now, the AMA is focusing their attention on lifting the ban on lead in kid's toys for ATVs and motorcycles, distracting driving, and protecting off-highway riding. There are 500 other things (literally) they are working on, but that's the prominent ones on their site. The ban on lead has made a mess of the small motorcycle shops.

Unfortunately, filtering stopped cars is pretty low on the list.

Chris Luhman said...

Gary, here is the junk we're dealing with:

"In response to the outcry of riders and American Motorcyclist Association (AMA) members, the New York Village of Port Jefferson mayor cancelled the last Business Improvement District (BID) meeting to address concerned riders about a BID newsletter that asked local businesses to ban the "unsightly presence of motorcyclists" from Main Street."

Gary France said...

Chris – I have a lot of sympathy with fellow bikers across the pond. You might be amazed, but one area in central London called Westminster decided to remove free parking for motorcycles. This has caused a great deal anger to bikers who have taken to protesting every Wednesday morning by blocking the streets of Central London to raise awareness of this unfair “Tax”.

Their protests are gaining support among the biking community and the videos of the protest website show that over the past few weeks, more bikers are joining the protects. You will be able to see that the police are almost powerless to do anything about this as it is a lawful protest.

The main reason for protesting is that taking away free bike parking will mean that some people will revert to driving cars thereby causing more environmental damage and more congestion. Ok, the real reason is the additional cost – many people ride bikes in London as they are so much more cost effective than cars.

Today, the protests made the morning news. I might join them next week.

Use this URl to look at the protect website. Just take a look at some of the videos on the home page – they are brilliant!