Saturday, 8 September 2012

Isle of Docks

Continuing my, very occasional, series of posts on Boris biking around town, I headed to the Isle of Dogs on Thursday to sample the cycle culture in a part of London where long-establishd communities rub shoulders with big business at Canary Wharf.

Plenty space here - docks on Manchester Road
Getting to the Isle is easy by bike - Superhighway 3 whizzes you out from the City through Shadwell and Limehouse and before you know it, you're at Westferry, ready to go south onto the island. To the east lie the big businesses of Canary Wharf, including the headquarters of Barclays, sponsors of our blue friends. It's here in the Wharf that the greatest density of docking stations is to be found, presumably because this is a prime location for commuting. Compared to the City, the docks seem bigger and more carefully planned to meet demand. My only real worry is the awkwardness of accessing the area - CS3 actually skirts round to the north and signed bike lanes into the heart of the business district seem non-existent.

At this point I cheated because I docked and took the DLR to Mudchute, which has an impressive docking station right outside the station. Shame it was inoperative. I walked across Millwall Park (a worthwhile visit in itelf) to Stebondale Road, and picked up a bike. Here on the east side of the island, there are numerous large docking stations. Manchester Road isn't too busy with traffic, and biking is fun. A useful station is positioned right next to Island Gardens, where you can grab a coffee. I took a walk through the Greenwich Foot Tunnel - the lifts have been refurbished, so it's now easier to cross with your bike. Don't take your Boris though, there are no docking stations in Greenwich yet.

By the Thames - Napier Avenue
Back on the island, I undocked again and headed east to Napier Avenue, in a beautiful riverside location. You have to know where it is though, it's so far from any other dock it doesn't appear on the '5 minute walking' maps on any of the terminals. Westferry Road is to the west of the island what Manchester Road is on the east, but narrower and with more traffic. Cycle lanes don't exist, nor it seems do any docks. Alpha Grove is a bit off the beaten track in a rather run-down estate - for the more modern riverside developments on this side of the island, there are no docks at all north of Napier Avenue. The other location where a dock is needed, but missing, is at South Quay - it would seem natural to install one here close to the DLR station. I finished my ride by heading south off Marsh Wall into the Crossharbour area, and finally docked at Millharbour.

I'm not sure whether Boris bikes get used much on the Isle of Dogs. It's not 'on the way' to anywhere, and apart from the business area at the north there isn't much to bring you onto the island unless you live there. The streets are quieter than a lot of London, which makes cycling pleasant, apart from Westferry Road, but with various docks (the watery kind!) and parks, it can be a bit awkward finding the best routes round the area. It's also an area still in transition, plenty new offices and flats are still going in. I hope more docks are built on the west side of the island, and at South Quay, but otherwise I think the bikes are a positive presence in this part of Tower Hamlets, and I'd recommend a ride out there.


  1. I use it from Island Gardens quite a bit. I (unfortunately) currently reside in South East London and work in Oxford Circus, so get the DLR to Island Gardens, cycle up to CS3 then whizz into the city and then along Embankment and up to the west end. Quite a nice ride :)

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