Any North London cyclist cycling to the West End is likely to go through Regents Park eventually. It’s on the way to a lot of places and route planners take you through it. It’s a beautiful park, with a well maintained road surface (a rarity in London) and relatively free of motorised traffic (also rare).
I say relatively free because you can’t help noticing the signs when you enter the park banning commercial vehicles. The armed police guarding the residence of the US ambassador probably help enforce the 30mph speed limit on motorised vehicles. That said, I’ve only ever seen the police stopping cyclists taking short cuts on pedestrian bridges or fining cyclists for jumping red lights.
Anyway, cycling through Regents Park is an unusually pleasant experience for the London bike commuter so you return, even at the cost of a slight diversion. Before long you notice that, for some, the park is no diversion or interlude but an end in itself. At any time of day, in all weathers, there will be solo cyclists, smaller and larger groups doing 2.75 mile laps, nearly always in an anti-clockwise direction because this makes the one 90 degree turn easier.
So, one day you give it a try. And its a revelation. Its nearly flat, though the harder you pedal the more you notice the slight deviations from horizontal. And you can keep pedalling for as long as you like, working hard or taking it easy, depending on your mood. There are 4 sets of traffic lights, though you would be unlucky to encounter all 4 on red, especially since 2 are pedestrian controlled. Moreover, when you’re starting out they provide a welcome chance to soft pedal.
You soon discover that RP laps, as you learn to call them, are a welcome opportunity to increase your mileage. This helps to bridge the gap between a short commute and a longer event. After temptation comes initiation…