Last week some bike racks popped up all over London. It was for the launch of the new Barclays Cycle Hire scheme from Transport For London. Or the Boris Bike, as people are calling it. With the scheme going live last Friday, I decided to register and start using it. My key arrived on the weekend, and I took my first ride on the bike this morning for the Euston Train Station to Clerkenwell part of my commute.
In no particular order, here are my observations:
- It's more costly than you think, but still dead cheap. The leaflets claim "Journeys under 30mins are FREE!". Well, first you have to buy a key fob by registering online. That's £3. Then you have to pay a minimum of £1 for every 24hr period that you're using the bike. THEN it's free to use for under 30mins. Beats the tube on cost, but it's not really free, Boris
- I feared there wouldn't be enough supply at my pick-up station, or enough spaces for giving it back when I arrived at the office. I found this morning that TFL have a google maps site that gives you live updates of how many bikes and empty docking spaces there are for you to use - this will really help to avoid problems especially when you're in a rush and can't be cycling around the block looking for a docking station
- There are gears! The right handlebar when you twist has three gears, to help you cope with speeds of more than one mile per hour
- The unlocking and depositing is really easy. Touch wood, no problems. you just wait for the green light
- For someone like me who is not used to riding expensive bikes, it's not a bad bike. Brakes work well, it's stable, and considering it has slash-proof tyres, it's not too bad
- The seat does adjust. And it's default setting is child-height low. So make it higher, so you don't look like an eejit (like I did)
Update - 12th August
In the first one and a half weeks of using the Boris Bike, I've encountered a number of problems. Of course there will be teething problems with this new scheme, but it does seem riddled with bugs. Here are the ones I've encountered so far:
- Day 2 (problems 1 and 2): Fob didn't work and Pay Station didn't work. I had to call them up and have them reset my account to enable me to use it again. Easily solved, but 10mins on an 0845 number from the mobile to do it.
- Day 4 (problem 3): No bikes. At my station at my office there were no bikes, so I had to take the Tube.
- Day 5 (problem 4): Bike wouldn't release. The only bike left wouldn't come out of the stand. So Tube it was again.
- Day 6 (problem 5): No parking slots. I arrived at my destination and there were no free parking slots. I had to go around the block to find another station, almost missing my train in the process.
- Day 7 (problem 6): Bad bike seat. The bike seat wouldn't stay at the right height, even when fully tightened. It meant I had to spend most of the journey sitting at the height of a child.
- Day ?? (problem 7): Like many others, I have been overcharged! I'm not sure for which journey, but instead of £1 I was charged £4. Cheeky Boris. I've had an email saying that I will be refunded.
- Day 9 (problem 8): I arrived at Euston Station at 8pm to catch my train home. First and second bike racks I tried were full. Third had two spaces. I was 10mins late for my train having had to cycle around the block.
Regardless of these problems, I am enjoying riding a bike when I can.