Europe ’14: London

 Our six week European adventure is almost over.  We decided to save shuttle money by taking the Leonardo Express train from Termini to the airport, a car journey of around an hour.  The train is cheap, 14 Euros, frequent, and takes only 36 minutes.  Compare this to Sydney’s privatised service that charges a $25 premium for the last km of the trip.

We will not be venturing outside Central London so my comments are only relevant to that part of the UK.[teaserbreak]

 I was very impressed with the London underground and overground railway network.  The map looks like spaghetti junction but, once you get the hang of it, can you get you anywhere fast and safely – assuming you are able bodied.  Unfortunately only around ten per cent of stations provide disabled access to the platforms.

 The red double decker buses, many hybrid powered, also provide a good service but timeliness is dependant on the London traffic that is often in gridlock.  The traditional black London cabs are everywhere.

 WVCC president Martin Miller would be rapt to see the many bicycles on London’s streets.  Helmet use and lighting on the bikes is very patchy.  A terrific feature is the network of rent bike stations scattered around. The rent bikes are designed for short trips for people who don’t bring their bike to work. For one pound you can take as many thirty minute rides per day as you like.  These Barclays bikes (or Boris bikes as the locals call them) are extremely widely used.  It is common to see solicitor’s clerks running out of court grabbing a bike at the nearest station and cycling off to their nearest appointment.  The down side, from my observations, is that Boris bike riders are the worst riders and least likely to wear a helmet.  Cycle usage and deaths are rising together in London.

The streets in inner London are very narrow so there is no space for Canberra style bike lanes.  Cyclists are also discouraged from riding on the footpaths.  Consequently, cyclists generally snake between the car/bus traffic putting their lives at risk and infuriating drivers trying to avoid collisions.

 The style of London housing is designed for a much colder climate than Sicily.  There are very few awnings and the emphasis is on keeping the cold out rather than letting the air in.  There are very few air conditioning units perched on balconies.  London does not appear well prepared for significant global warming.  As there is less sunshine there are fewer solar panels in evidence than in Italy and Greece.

It was great to see a community garden located beside Olympia railway station.

As in Italy, immigration is a very common topic for discussion.  Many UK residents are annoyed by refugees transiting through France and EU citizens crossing the Channel and taking their jobs.  During our stay there were reports of the UK police seeking the help of police forces from Eastern Europe to identify criminals who were hiding out in northern England.

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