Cycling in central London sounds like an intimidating prospect to many, especially given the number of motorised vehicles running around the capital. However London is really more of a cycle friendly city than you might expect.
For a start, hire a bike. It's easy and actually really quite user friendly. Barclays Cycle Hire has all the details, but basically have a bank card with you and you will be good to go.
You can take out an annual membership which makes the process even simpler, but for an irregular user it's not the best value for money. The quality of bikes is actually pretty good, maybe not to the standard of the best road bikes, but certainly up to the job of running you around.
Bikes are allowed in the bus lanes in the capital and this certainly helps make the whole experience a little less intimidating, given that most of the busiest routes have bus lanes. Another factor helping bike riders is that the quieter back roads are often one way. As long as you keep your wits about you and don't end up going the wrong way down a one way road, you should be able to keep yourself safe.
If you are going somewhere specific it's well worth planning your journey, and at least getting some idea of which direction to head in. Otherwise you may well end up miles away from your intended destination before you know it.
Concentrating on the road and traffic makes it hard to take in the sights of the city, however if you don't have anywhere specific in mind to go London is actually quite a fun place to go riding as well especially if you choose a time when its relatively quiet. It's flat enough not to be too tiring and yet the roads and other areas are interesting enough to keep any rider entertained. The clever rider could also pick some nice parkland to ride in, although you need to be careful to check whether or not the park you wish to ride through allows cyclists to ride in it, and which routes around the park are allowed. Also London has some nice towpaths that are well worth a ride along.
If the traffic is still putting you off, next August provides the perfect opportunity to try out riding around London. The Ride London event over the weekend of the 3rd and 4th August 2013, includes two events open to the public, as well as the opportunity to see some of the best racers in the world racing around London.
On the 3rd of August, the Ride London Free Ride event gives even the most casual cyclists a chance to ride around a route around the capital that will take in some of the most iconic sights, as well as providing a relaxed atmosphere to ride in!
On the following day, more serious cyclists get there turn with the Ride London 100, which will follow a similar course to the Olympic Road Race did. This is expected to be over-subscribed and a ballot will decide the 20,000 places for the 100 mile ride.
Entries for both of the public events can be made via the Ride London website.