Don’t dread your commute. Here’s how to make the most of your journey to work

Whether you walk or Tube, drive, cycle or micro scoot, here’s how to do it better

Once you have got yourself a safe room to sleep in, between 60 and 90% of successfully existing in London is grappling with commuting.

Research last year indicated that 45% of British workers put a short commute at the top of their list of priorities when choosing where to live. In London it’s even more important.

London is large. Greater London is over 600 miles square. Getting from your lodgings to your place of employment and back again every day can be a challenge.

And London is overcrowded. You are just one insignificant human being in a big polluted pot of over 8.5 million other human beings.

If you generally head out to work in the morning and come back from work in the evening, then you are going to be scurrying about in London at the same time as millions of other people.

This means that rush hour can be unpleasant. Very unpleasant. Yesterday people had panic attacks on the Jubilee Line due to overcrowding. Last month businessmen wet themselves because they couldn’t walk down the train to the lavatory, due to overcrowding. On the roads, congestion costs London’s economy a staggering £5.3bn a year.

But being angry about this state of affairs could have very real health consequences. Fine, it’s right and proper to have a simmering repugnance of the wider ramifications of the mass commute, but if you’re grinding your guts into a horrible ball of frustration at the beginning and end of each working day, then it’s going to wreak havoc on your face, your heart, and potentially the lifespans of other humans around you.

Becoming master of your commute will mean you will arrive at work with a wonderful glow, refreshed and ready to go. And when you get home, instead of having an argument with your wife/husband/budgie, you will instead be full of fascinating insights and a deliciously contagious tranquillity.  Hopefully.

Here’s how:

Breakfast

Before you even attempt to go to work, get some fuel in the tank. Without breakfast you are running on empty, you’re going to have bad breath, feel like crap, and then be hungry when you get to work.

Coffee and omelette is good, especially if you’re cycling. Tea and porridge is a great combination. Toast and orange juice is fine too. As are many other combinations. Egg and soup. Avocado and Umbongo perhaps. But having no breakfast is a terrible, dreadful idea.

Walking

If you live in London and you walk to work, you are living the dream, and are probably have everything in life so sorted that you don’t need much extra guidance.

How to make the most of it:

There are many ways to further improve your ambles to work. Celebrate your sojourns, adopt the mental accoutrements of the “flâneur” – consider yourself an urban explorer, a connoisseur of the streets. One good tip is to look up more. While you’re minding the cracks so you don’t break your mothers back, and evading dog eggs, it can be easy to trundle along gazing towards the pavement. London’s array of architecture suddenly becomes infinitely more diverse if you crane your neck the other way and gaze skywards.

Cycling

Travelling to work in London by bike has become massively popular in recent years. This has baffled many people who haven’t tried it. Since the year 2000, the number of cyclists on London’s roads has trebled – 36,000 people in London now cycle daily.

If you live less than 10 miles from work, but more than one mile from work, it’s probably the quickest way of getting there.

How to make the most of it:

Billy Conolly once said: “There’s no such thing as bad weather, just the wrong clothing, so get yourself a sexy raincoat and live a little”.

Learning to enjoy cycling in all weathers is one way to enhance your commute. Your colleagues will be mystified as to your good mood when you arrive for work on a cold wet day with a ruddy grin and an air of insouciance.

Another tip is to take it easy. It’s very normal to slip into the “got to get where I’m going” mode of cycling. Instead try slipping up into a lighter gear and taking enough time to look at the river/park/train line.

During a cycle commute, you must concentrate on the road, but this doesn’t mean you can’t talk aloud to yourself about any topic.

Bus

Now we are onto seated public transport and this is where the fun really begins. You have no responsibilities other than getting to work on time, and you can pretty much do whatever you want, as long as you remain sitting down.

How to make the most of it:

Be early. You will ruin your bus ride if you are worried you are going to be late for work.

But after that, you are only limited by your imagination in this situation. Reading, lolling your head back, looking out of the window or listening to a podcast may all be delightful ways to enjoy your bus ride.

But you could be more ambitious still. Knitting a jumper could be a good bus project, as could writing one short poem on each trip.

The beauty of the bus is the windows. They are all around you, like HD screens giving you 3D views of the London cityscape. If there is a particularly good view of a scene or object from your bus route, when you are able to, take a photograph of it each week, so that over the course of the year you can witness the changing of the seasons.

Tube train

Getting into a hot pipe loaded with humans deep underground doesn’t sound like fun, and mostly, it isn’t. However, when it works, the Tube is reasonably efficient.

How to make the most of it:

You have to become a pretty cool customer to enjoy your Tube journey. You are unlikely to get a seat, unlikely to be able to comfortably read, and will have to use a substantial amount of brain power to keep yourself from toppling onto the irate and malodorous fellow Tube passengers.

This means you will need your brain to be functioning at a high level so you can enjoy your thoughts.

To achieve this, make sure you eat a good breakfast, and plan what you are going to think about on the Tube. Perhaps you will set yourself some serious life goals and work out how to achieve them.

Or maybe reliving all of your favourite Father Ted moments will be even more rewarding and entertaining.

Always keep a small book in your pocket. Occasionally a seat does come free, and then you can escape your own thoughts and enjoy a few minutes blissful immersion in literature.

Train

Now that’s what I call transport! Trains remain one of the most exhilarating methods of going to places at high speed. Or they would if you could get a seat.

Unfortunately overcrowding, regular delays and astronomical ticket prices are doing their best to make commuting to work by train a deeply unpleasant undertaking.

Meanwhile, the companies behind the worsening train services are making bigger profits than ever.

How to make the most of it:

When all goes well on the train, reading, snoozing, writing a play, knitting, and striking up a conversation with a fellow passenger can all be highly rewarding pastimes.  

When it goes wrong and you are being held at a red light outside Paddington for 45 minutes, channel your rage into a mental exploration of the failings of capitalism and national governance that have landed you in such a frustrating situation.

Many transport bosses are earning 10 times what their employees are paid – is that an inclusive model?

Scooter/motorbike

Like cycling, but faster, a lot more dangerous, and a lot more fun, scooters and motorbikes are a very decent method of moving fast through London.

But of all the modes of transport, the operation of such vehicles requires by far the most alertness. If you are not 100% focussed on the road, you are doing it wrong.

How to make the most of it:

Take it easy, stay safe and you’re onto a winner.

Car

This is the worst way of commuting in London. If you drive to work every day, then you are blocking the roads and polluting the air every day.

How to make the most of it:

If you absolutely must drive for your journey, then be sure to drive an electric vehicle, or at least something as small and green as you can afford.

Then, getting the most out of your stop-start grind through the smoggy arteries of London, will be about finding inner peace, and listening to the radio or good music.

Cable Car

Are you one of the three people who use Boris Johnson’s £60m cable car to get to work? It must be a lonely experience.

 

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