Jenni Gwiazdowski probably has the coolest name of anyone whose commute we’ve featured so far on MadeGood. It may sound a bit like a name that an NYC detective might go by, but that’s not what Jenni is known for. As someone wanting to help others to maintain a smooth running ride, Jenni set up the London Bike Kitchen in 2012 – a ‘DIY workshop’ where people can drop in, borrow tools and take care of their bike. It has really caught on and become a popular place in London that is empowering people to follow the MadeGood ethic of taking care of your own bicycle.
We spoke to Jenni about her commute to work in the mornings.
MadeGood: How long have you been a cyclist?
Jenni Gwiazdowski: I’ve been riding a bike my whole life but didn’t become a ‘cyclist’ until about 4 years ago.
MG: What do you ride?
JG: I have a 2008 women’s LeMond Etape and a sit-up-and-beg Alpina Spranghina.
MG: And why do you commute by bike?
JG: Because if I drove a car to work in a bike shop, I’d be a hypocrite! But really, riding to work is a way for me to relax, clear my head, and get ready for the day. Riding back home is a way to decompress. I love the ride back home.
MG: Where do you start your commute, and where do you finish?
JG: I start in Upper Clapton and finish at the London Bike Kitchen in Hoxton.
MG: How long does it normally take?
JG: It takes 15 – 20 minutes depending on which bike I take, the weather, and what mood I’m in.
MG: When did you start this commute?
JG: Since I moved to my flat, which was 4 years ago.
MG: Describe your route. What areas do you pass through?
JG: I take backstreets, so I’m usually winding around town. I start in Clapton, make my way towards Stoke Newington and Shacklewell, then through Dalston and de Beauvoir and end up right at the border with Hoxton.
MG: What are the best sections of the commute and why?
JG: When I turn off Balls Pond Road onto Culford Road – the streets are lined with different trees that change colour in the Autumn, and the houses are really peaceful and quiet. On my way home, I take a diagonal side street from de Beauvoir road onto Stamford road, which is also lovely. I go past the Mole Man’s excavated house!
MG: What are the worst sections of the commute and why?
JG: Several. Crossing over Upper Clapton road to Mount Pleasant Lane on my way home is the worst way to end my day – cars drive so fast and don’t care that you’re trying to change lanes to turn right. The Dalston Kingsland road junction with Shacklewell Lane – cars don’t signal left here and you get the left hook sometimes. Between the many traffic islands I take the lane as I’ve been cut off too many times. And still I get cars trying to push their way in front of me. I had a run-in with a lorry on Shacklewell Lane – some guy trying to pass me even as I took the lane. He had his family in there with him too, and he was revving his engine, making like he was going to run me off the road. I yelled at him, “Are you proud of yourself!?” That was unpleasant.
MG: Do you see any interesting sights/people on the ride?
JG: In the morning I’ll pass a nice street sweeper on my way in. He’s always got a smile on his face and is sweeping away. We said hi once! I’ve noticed the gentrification happening too – the coffee shops and art galleries moving their way out north east. There’s a man on Evering Road who owns at least four Jaguars and has ‘Jaguar Parking Only’ signs in front of his house. Oh, and the Mole Man’s House, of course.
MG: How long would it take by public transport?
JG: You know, I’m not sure, I’ve never taken public transport to the London Bike Kitchen shop. I walked it once and it took me 45 minutes. Public transport would probably be the same.
MG: How much money do you save by cycling rather than taking public transport?
JG: Well, let’s see. If I took the bus I’d have to pay £1.35 each way, so that’s £2.70 per day, £18.90 per week (I work 7 days a week), about £75.60 per month!
You can see London Bike Kitchen’s website at lbk.org.uk and follow them on Twitter on @LDNBikeKitchen. They’re based at 28 Whitmore Road, London, N1 5QA. Why not pop in to meet Jenni and get cracking on making your bicycle into a smooth running dream bike?!
By Duncan Palmer (@Cyclodunc) for MadeGood