The commute

Beauty can lie within the ordinary. The humdrum. The good old commute. Ten miles each way, a workout for the legs, for the nerves. Who needs skydiving or bungee jumping when I can simply jump on a bike in central London and get my heart pumping?

Here’s a glimpse into the predictable but also surprising moments from the last four minutes of my commute. All content was recorded on my new GoPro (more on that below).

First, the surprising. I love this image, which I only came across when playing the video back. A nice little fist pump salute to the camera! This image alone almost makes the investment in the GoPro worthwhile! Long may such quirky moments continue.

London commuter has the power
Londoner’s, always on the lookout for their moment to shine

Commuting the same route for 8 years [ach, 8 years – I need a new job!], you become familiar with the potholes, the pinch points, the sections where pedestrians cross the road without looking, like the one below. To be fair there is no green man at this crossing which is just ludicrous.

Pedestrians crossing the road
Pedestrian slalom

Sure London is busy and the commute can be crazy. Yet glance to my left and there’s history everywhere I look. I glance left everyday at this point.

The Monument to the Great Fire of London,

Another glance to the left. Tower Bridge, usually with the sun rising behind it first thing in the morning. I love crossing London Bridge southbound against the trudge of the rat race. Plus, I’ll now be able to capture the incredible view when in December the sun rises right between the two pillars of the bridge. Normally it’s too cold to stop and get my phone out!

Tower Bridge
Tower Bridge, the Shard, the Rat Race

Another point where every day I’ll be guaranteed a pedestrian crossing in front of me no matter how much I ring the bike bell. I don’t get mad, I just slow down. I’m a firm believer in the hierarchy of the road.

London pedestrian's cross the street
Lemming run

There’s always one. Usually more unfortunately. The fella below decided to overtake the bus to save, oh I don’t know, 10 seconds, without really thinking things through.

White van man drives on wrong side of the road
White van man driving on the wrong side of the road.

A few more folk trying to save themselves ten seconds. Fortunately I’m going slow as the red lights are on. There’s another set of lights about 1 metre behind me.

More pedestrians running across the road
Quick, run!

Let’s finish on a more positive note. Looking west across London bridge, St Paul’s in the distance, London bus approaching, sun’s out. Life’s good.

The shadow man

GoPro Hero 6 first impressions

All of the above are unedited stills from my first GoPro commute. I filmed using a GoPro Hero 6. Light and compact, I picked up an ex-display model for a bargain price.

I think I’ll use the stills more than the actual videos! I’m hoping to capture some actual interesting footage when I go cycle touring. This is more a quick demo of what the camera can produce.

Most buy a GoPro for the almost professional quality of the filming. I’ll let the video do the talking. The image stabilisation is almost too good, too smooth. I feel like I should begin practising Morgan Freeman voice overs just to do the image quality justice.

The GoPro editing app, Quik, helps you produce quick video edits. The video below was created in about 20 minutes messing about on a mobile phone. Sure some of the settings can be a little cheesy but hey, this ain’t the Sundance Festival.

The app is a little buggy but it does the job. The major drawback is you can’t save to your SD card by default. A little crazy given the file sizes!

Note the slo-mo in the video below. Very nice. This was recorded in 1080, 60fps (frames per second). The YouTube compression loses a lot of the image quality so isn’t representative. There’s also 4k recording options on the GoPro and the ability to record at 240fps – ideal for super slo-mo when I crash!

You can also use the Quik app to create quick photo montages. This one took about 2 minutes. You can remove the fish-eye perspective from stills by changing the video perspective but I like the look.

When I have some decent footage I’ll bore you all with a combi-production of video, photos and time-lapses of mountains, cows, hairpins and roads so beautiful you’ll want to go for a bike ride.

Why record my commutes?

I wish I didn’t have to. Yet a few recent near misses broke my resolve. After over 15 years of cycle commuting in this dirty old town I decided to get a video camera. I’ve become jaded. Whilst the roads have on the whole become safer during this period, not so the unfathomable anger and rage of a minority.

You know the ones. The close passes which are not an accident, or the ones who actually try to knock you off your bike or the ones who simply want to fight you because you ride a bicycle.

Like the bus driver who last week would have squashed me when overtaking if I hadn’t stopped. Or the taxi driver who drove within centimetres of my rear wheel in attempt to intimidate me and save himself zero seconds. Or the man in the van, a passenger, who asked me why had I no lights on. In daylight. And then proceeded to rant and tell me he hoped I died. Nice chap.

Well no more. This isn’t me becoming a vigilante. This is documentary making. Awareness raising. Police, you will be sent incidents. Dangerous drivers, there will be consequences.

It’s such a shame it’s come to this. I love my commute. Whilst incidents are isolated, they are scary. Yet let’s not forget for every scary moment there’s a 100 lovely moments, like the one above of the girl giving the camera a black power fist salute!

So don’t worry, this blog will not become an advertisement for idiots. I’ll save such footage for the police. You’ll get goats in the road and summit views.

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7 thoughts on “The commute

  1. Wow I’m impressed. What a wonderful world to be riding to work in. Viewing from my house “down under” it seems to be so casually littered with remarkable historical masonry, statues, ancient bridges, and an evocative river along which so many rowed in their finery, so much and so enjoyably presented. When you look to the left like that, and point us to the gold topped column I saw the Buddha briefly, must a been my imagination. Keep up the good work man, your GOPRO work is magnificent for us arm chair travelling cyclists. Thanks

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  2. Peds in Washington DC could care less too. You have to love everyone to ride here. Now the electric scooters are here, mixed in with the rental bikes. Pitifully slow. E-bikes are almost as fast as mopeds. Cabs do a slow drift all over the city to change direction quickly. Some Uber and Lyft drivers lack a clue.

    Liked by 1 person

    1. Sounds very similar. Escooters are illegal here, but they are increasing in number. I welcome them but something has to give. Hopefully it’ll be the trading of roads for cars with roads for more sustainable travel. Somehow I doubt it though.

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