I had my first ride on a Boris Bike today. Boris Bikes, (or to give them their proper name The Transport for London Cycle Hire Scheme) for those of you who may be unfamiliar with them, is a scheme set up about a year ago, that allows you to hire a bike for short periods at a nominal fee. It was inspired in the main by the Parisian Velib scheme. It costs £1 to register for a day and after that journeys of up to half an hour are free.
My first job of the day was at the top end of the Kings Road and my second one was at the other end. I suppose I could have walked or taken the bus, in fact I was going to walk, but as I was passing a bank of docked bikes inspiration struck. It takes about 60 seconds and a credit or debit card to obtain an unlocking code, and punch it in. Pull the bike out of the dock and you are off, London is your oyster. Actually if bike hire could be tied into the Oyster Card scheme that would be brilliant.
I was quite impressed by the bike. The riding position is very upright but comfortable. They are heavy but you get the feeling that if you were in collision with a double-decker bus, it would be the bus that came off second best. (Disclaimer – I strongly recommend not putting this theory to the test). There is something about them that encourages a relaxed, literally no sweat, style of riding. The three gears are more than adequate for any hills that you will find in Central London. I wouldn’t choose one for a full day ride in hilly countryside, but for short (up to half hour) trips in London they are brilliant. I was slightly disappointed that I couldn’t fit my rucksack into the luggage carrier, as I don’t like cycling with a pack on my back. But my rucksack is quite big, and for the ten minutes each way it wasn’t too bad.At the other end you just put the bike back in its docking station and leave it. When you want to use a bike again you just put your credit card into the reader, it checks that you have already paid and issues you with a new unlock code, and off you go again.