With the launch of the Boris Bike, is London welcoming a new form of transport?
WAN’s very own chairman Richard Coleman was spotted out on Oxford street between meetings doing just that. “I used to ride a bike all the time – everywhere! But now at my age, one feels it is somewhat tiresome to be a cyclist, so I resort to taxis and the tube”.
Riding your own bike in London can be something of a challenge, what with deciding which of the battered old railings to lock it up to, only to return to the spot finding a lonely broken D-lock; or clattering down the hallway of your office, seeking out a place to stash it for the day, almost always getting in someone’s way. “Now, however, with the Boris Bike I am free to cycle whenever I chose, as there is always one available. Simply stick a bit of plastic in and off you go. There is a wonderful feeling of being able to cycle in, park up and just walk away, quite liberating really.” So the trials and tribulations of owning a bike, parking it and then having it stolen once every 2 months are no more.
So far, more than 12,000 people have signed up to the idea, far outstripping the 5,000 bicycles which will be available at special docking stations. Already, more than 12,450 keys have been handed out to Londoners enabling them to unlock bikes left at 315 docking points across the city. The keys cost £3 and the cost of using the cycles varies from £1 for an hour to £50 for 24 hours. TfL and operator Serco aim to have 6,000 cycles and 400 docking stations later this year.
“There is also a sense of well-being and security on a Boris Bike. They are slightly bulkier and slower than those on racers and what not, who whizz about weaving in and out of traffic. No, one is more sensible and plays by the rules on a Boris Bike, and likewise one is certainly more visible to traffic in bright blue, kitted out with lights that are always on.” The bike also features a nice structure at the front in which to put you bag, along with an adjustable saddle and three gears, which is all you really need for the centre of London.
“Being a member, I have been issued with 2 extra keys, extending the facility to either the workplace or members of my family for a day out and of course one of the delights of travelling by bike rather than taxi is being able to join up all the bits and pieces of London. One can enjoy the buildings properly, having the freedom to go from one place to another quite easily and at one’s own will.” But the bikes will not be for members only, TfL are looking to introduce terminals for ‘casual users’ who will be able to pay at the machine and enter their cycle release code, opening the bikes up to tourists.
“I have to say that I pass by certain areas in London, St James Square for example only to find the docking stations completely full of bikes, suggesting that they are sadly wasted in this particular area, contrary to what the critics are saying.” It seems as though Londoners haven’t quite got into the swing of Boris Johnson's London Cycle Hire scheme yet, but rumour has it that the introduction of new cycle lanes and user friendly terminals will have us all reaching for our helmets and hitching up our socks. Watch this space...