London as seen from the courier’s saddle

A singular view of London is provided in Jon Day’s Cyclogeography (Notting Hill Editions), from which The Guardian ran an extract at the weekend. Reporting on his time as a bicycle courier, he says: “you learn to inhabit the places in between the pickups and the drops. You learn the secret smells of the city: summer’s burnt metallic tang; the sweetness of petrol; the earthy comfort of freshly laid tarmac. Some parts of London have their own smells, like olfactory postcodes. The shisha bars on Edgware Road fill the area with a sweet smoky haze; the mineral tang of Billingsgate fish market wafts over the Isle of Dogs.

“Riding a bike for a living means you learn to read the road too, calculating routes, anticipating snarl-ups, dancing round potholes almost unconsciously. With its signs and painted hieroglyphics the road is an encyclopaedia of movement: drive here, walk here, park here, no stopping here. Look down and the tarmac tells you what to do. Traffic lights regulate the entire mechanism like enormous clocks, telling you when to move and when to stop.”

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