Saturday, 31 July 2010

An Afternoon on Boris's Hire Bikes

This afternoon The Man suggested that we take the train up to London and try out the new Cycle Hire Bikes. We had applied for keys earlier in the week and they had arrived surprisingly quickly; I certainly felt that if that was an indication of the efficiency of the scheme that this was a good start, particularly so close to the launch.

We arrived at Waterloo Station and crossed the road to the Docking Station on Concert Hall Approach; this is meant to be a reasonably large station with 33 bikes and, happily there were more than enough for our needs.

We had heard that some of the bikes had tight rear wheels, so we checked that our bikes were OK. I chose 14389 and The Man chose 16176.

It would appear that I was better at checking than him as we had not gone that far before he noticed that his bike was quite stiff to ride, which is not what we were expecting.

We decided to do a tour of our respective work places, so headed along Stamford Street and Southwark Street towards Southwark Bridge and the City. As we went, we noticed just how many Docking Stations there are, all of them had bikes in, although the one on Stamford Street had no spaces to dock, which would have meant going to one of the other Docking Stations in the area. Some Docking Stations, like the one on Queens Street, are not fully finished yet, but had bikes, and a few are not finished at all, such as the one at Bank of England Museum, which is still a building site. But that said, even without all of the Docking Stations fully finished, the coverage on the route that we took was very impressive.

We found our way to Devonshire Square Docking Station and were pleased to see that there were some vacant spaces so duly docked our trusty bikes. My bike was more than happy to be docked and the light went the required green. For some reason The Man's dock light insisted on staying amber, although the bike seemed to be securely docked so we assumed it was as we went on a walk to my office to fill the required 5 minutes before we took another bike out (you can take another bike straight away, but then you do not benefit from the free first 30 minutes deal - having a 5 minute break means you start a new 'first 30 minutes'). The Man had not realised that it was as far from Bank as it is, he knew it was close to Liverpool Street Station, but seems to have foreshortened the distance from Bank.

When we returned to the Docking Station The Man was not able to take a bike out, other than the one that he had used from Waterloo, clearly this was the result of the incomplete Dock earlier. So we decided to go only a short distance to Wormwood Street, re-dock and have a drink before we set up again. This time the bike docked without a problem, and the drink was very welcome, so a bit of a win win.

So it was on to Monument and The Man's office. This time it was my turn to have an eye opener as I had not realised how close to The House of Fraser his offices are, and how close to London Bridge. We looked for his nearest Docking Station and found one not too far away on Eastcheap.

We then cycled over London Bridge and started to retrace our steps (or pedals) to Waterloo having had a really enjoyable afternoon using the latest addition to the London Transport System.

So what are the bikes like and how do they work? They are sedate, it has to be said, courtesy of their weight and wide tyres. Do not expect to be nipping in and out of traffic on these, they are aimed at the casual and occasional cyclist, not at the Lycra clad enthusiast. Cycling in a suit or a skirt should be no problem and there is a (smallish) space at the front of the bike where you can put a bag, probably up to the size of a laptop bag, kept in place with a strong elastic band. There are three gears, set very low, which are controlled by a grip shift on the right hand, and a bell on the left, tucked in under the grip. The usual front and rear brakes are provided and clearly labeled as such for those not used to riding. The seat is a bit like an armchair, but not uncomfortable, and the height can be adjusted very easily. So we are definitely fans at the moment and as long as the bikes are maintained well, we see no reason why that will not continue to be the case. Well done Boris!

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