It’s 5pm on a Friday afternoon. I’m just shutting down my computer and washing up my mug when a colleague wanders through.
“A few of us are going for a quick drink. D’you fancy coming with us?” she asks.
I pause for…oh, about a nanosecond to consider my response before accepting the invitation.
I grab my helmet and keys, then hoist my Ortlieb bag on my shoulder. “You’re going to take your bike to the pub? Will you be alright cycling home?” my colleague asks, concern in her voice.
“Yeah, it’s fine,” I reply. “As long as I stay in the pub until after 7pm, I can just take it home on the Overground with me.”
There are few advantages to working where I do, up in Cricklewood – we are, after all, much closer to the end of the M1 than the Thames – but being able to go for a drink after work without worrying whether I’ll be able to get home safely is definitely one of them.
For those whose weeks regularly end – and possibly even start – in the pub, this may not seem like that much of a big deal. But then I’d hazard a guess that most of those who, on a Friday evening, head straight from the office to the pub have never had to weigh up the risks of braving the journey home after a few pints, versus the likelihood of their bike still being there the next day if they decide to leave it overnight.
A few weeks back, I met up with a friend for a coffee on a Saturday afternoon, which then turned into an impromptu visit to my favourite pub. When I’d left home earlier in the day I’d had no intention of staying out into the evening, so I hadn’t thought to take my lights with me. When the time came to decide whether to head home before it got dark or to stay for another cider, I chose the latter – the company was congenial, the cider enticing, and after two pints of it already I was feeling distinctly mellow and in no hurry to head home to my empty flat.
This was, as I discovered the next day, the wrong decision. At some point – either while I was supping my cider in the pub, or later on, when I was at home, sleeping it off – some light-fingered bastard ran off with my saddle and seatpost. While I admit it could’ve been worse, it still cost me £50 to replace both, making that last pint of cider easily the most expensive drink I’ve ever had.
That got me thinking about whether I should’ve just cycled home the night before, cider or no cider.
From a legal point of view, I may well have got away with it. The drink-cycling rules are different from the drink-driving rules. The Road Traffic Act says that it’s an offence to ride a bike while ‘under the influence of a drink or a drug to such an extent as to be incapable of having proper control of the cycle.’
In other words, it doesn’t matter how much I’ve had to drink – as long as I could maintain proper control of my bike I’d probably escape the long arm of the law.
But cycling home after a few drinks is probably not the most sensible thing to be doing. Being of a fairly cautious nature, I usually have a pretty strict two drinks rule – which makes for a cheap, if slightly boring, night out. Every now and again I’ve gone over that and lived to tell the tale, but it’s not something I do very often. The times when I have done it, I’m always relieved to make it back home in one piece.
So from that point of view, I’m extremely grateful to London Overground for making it possible for me to go for a drink without having to choose between missing out on the fun or getting home safely.
I’m not sure what I’ll do, if and when I move on from this job and I have to contend with bike unfriendly buses and Tubes. I wonder – how do people who can’t take their bike home on the train manage? Would you cycle home after a few drinks?