Thursday, 28 June 2012

Boris Bikes

The Barclays Boris Bikes might be old to some, but this is the first time I've lived in London since I they were introduced. They're great!

I've been riding the bikes around town pretty regularly over the past three weeks. They are fantastic for a short journey. Built like tanks they don't go very quickly, but are perfect for a cruise into the office or to take across town.

The scheme seems pretty well run too. Inside the zone (roughly the underground Zone 1) there seem to be racks every other street which make the bikes easy to find. I have had to call customer services once and my called was answered quickly and dealt with efficiently.

Here's what I like / dislike so far.

The good:
- There are racks everywhere inside the zone. You never seem to be more than a couple of streets from a docking station which makes them incredibly convenient.

- They are cheap when compared with other public transport alternatives. The casual access rate is £1 per day and then every hire is free for the first thirty minutes. Thirty minutes seem to be ample to get where you need to do.

- The bikes all seem well maintained. Built like tanks they are probably hard to damage, but if you do pick up a duff one you can report it as needing maintenance (which I have done twice).

-  There are quite a few websites and apps available which help you find your closest docking station and tell you how many bikes / spaces are available there.

- Customer service seems very efficient. I've had a positive experience on the phone and some of the busiest docking stations are manned by chirpy staff (this leads onto a negative below).

- Cycling is a fun way to get around.

The bad:
 - I haven't yet found a use for the basket on the front of the bike. It is too small to be practical and doesn't have sides meaning whatever you carry could fall out.

- There is quite a big problem with the morning 'surge' into the city as commuters head for work. This means that the racks get full up very quickly and you can't drop off your bike. To get round this they man several of the busiest docking stations. The stake take the bikes out of the racks to create space. While this works it is hardly an optimal solution. I wonder what the other cities with cycle schemes do?

- If you don't have an access key (comes with annual membership) it can be quite slow to purchase access with several screens to click through. The screen on the docking station isn't that responsive either, but then a vandal proof touch screen can't be the easiest thing to design.

- During my three weeks of usage I've come across four docking stations that were out of order / experiencing problems. That is quite a high failure rate.

- You have to carry round your own helmet (although I can't think of a decent alternative to this one).

What do you like or dislike about the Boris Bike scheme?

I already know that once I've moved back to my flat in Brockley I'm going to miss the convenience of the Barclays Boris Bikes.

P.S. What are we going to call the bikes if the next mayor's name doesn't start with a 'B'?


  1. I visited London last summer. I had my Montague bike with me, so I didn't use the Boris Bikes. I had heard that cycling in London could be a little dicey, and it was. Maybe as more people use the bike share, or ride bikes in general, it will get better.

  2. Oh Richard I'm so far behind in reading people's blogs at the moment. I think I might have missed a very important post... did you move back??? (Or just a holiday?)

  3. Brydie, yes I did. It is something I was thinking about for a while. My grandparents passing away confirmed my decision and then a job opportunity came. It all happened very quickly in the end.

    I divided my starter between three friends so hopefully it will still live on in Australia. I'm going to start another one here once I move back into my own place.

  4. Wow. That was a big move then. Sending you lots of best wishes that the move back has been a great one. Sometimes these 'right' moments just jump up.

    ...hmm, now I can give you a lovely big list of all the things I can't source here!

  5. Send me the list. Kenwood will be No. 1 I suspect!