There is a relatively new travel concept in London which began in 2010 and appears to be gathering momentum. All over the central part of the city you will see rows of bicycles like those pictured, and you will see them being pedalled around. In the way of Londoners, these bikes have already been given a nickname. They are known as "Boris Bikes" after the current Mayor of London, Boris Johnson, himself a keen cyclist. They are sponsored by Barclays Bank and so they, and the associated "cycly superhighways" are blue, that boeing the corporate colour of the Bank.
So, how do they work? Well, this is quite complex, although the attached website should assist. Basically, you pay a set fee for access to the system. Then you can go to any bikestand and access a bike, which you cycle to your destination and dock it again. there is a sliding scale of charges but the first 30 minutes of any journey is free. I think this is to encourage short trips as an alternative to using public transport. It then starts to get quite expensive. For example, if you have the bike for two hours it will cost you £6.
I should say that I have not used the system yet but I intend to sign up today. The most cost effective for Londoners is the annual membership which costs £45 or baout 12 pence per day. I should point out that this option is not available to non UK citizens.
Update 20th November, 2012.
Since initially writing this piece the system has been expanded considerably and there are many more docking stations although htere still remain problems with certain ones being full and others empty but it seems to be getting a bit better.
Now for the bad news. Two days ago, I received a letter from Transport for London (TfL) who administer the scheme. As of January 2013 they are increasing prices for the "Boris bikes". This is understandable with inflation and so on. Inflation in UK is currently comfortably in sinlge figures so what is the increase going to be? 10%, 20%? No, TfL are actually DOUBLING all charges for the privelege of reducing carbon emissions in London, making the citizens fiteer and so on. Yes, you read that right, a 100% increase in price. The yearly cost is now £90 rather than £45. I have no idea how they can justify such blatant profiteering, it is a disgrace.
Cycling is undoubtedly a healthy and eco-friendly mode of transport and it appears to be increasingly popular in London. It may be an option if you want to get around.
On this years visit to London i realised that there were now many cycling lanes by the side of the main roads as Londoners save money travelling to and fro from work, but i also heard on the news that 50% of London cyclists have been hit by vehicles. So if you are planning on being in London for a while i suggest that cycling is the way to explore this great City.
A cycling map---www.tfl.gov.uk/roadusers/cycling
There are also bicycle tours of London and if you search the net you will find places that will rent them.
I have mentioned before about the extremely confused relationship between public transport in London and bicycles. Various Tube lines allow bikes at certain times and on certain portions of their lines and trying to keep track (no pun intended) is almost impossible.
Even though I have lived in London for many years, I never realised that non-folding bikes were completely forbidden on the Docklands light Railway (DLR). Live and learn, as they say. I saw this sign a couple of days ago, and it was the first notification I had ever seen on the DLR of this prohibition. I submit this tip to try and ssave readers any problems because they didn't know about this.
I hope you have come to this page via my Boris Bikes (1) and (2) pages where I promised that, in the interest of fair reporting, I would write an update to these pages. Here it is. For those coming straight to this page, here is a btief outline. The so -called Boris Bikes, named for the cycling Mayor of London, Boris Johnson. It is basically a system of public use bicycles that you can hire either by the day, month or year. You go to a docking station, access a bike, go to your destination and dock it in again. It is intended for short journeys and the charges escalate dramatically for longer use.
I had, to say the least, a fairly torrid time accessing the system, although I have now eventually managed it. The system is basically a good one but still fundamentally flawed. The two photos accompanying this tip demonstrate some of the problems. The night photo (apologies for the quality) is a docking station in the City of London at just before eight at night. Not a single bicycle for hire. I had to walk a considerable distance to get one at another station. Not good. Coming to the end of my journey, you can see the situation at the other end where I wanted to dock the bike. Almost full. Luckily, there was one space left but anyone coming five minutes after me would have had to go elsewhere. It appears that bikes tend to be cycled into the City in the morning, and cycled out in the evening.
The other problem is obviously the traffic. there are some designated cycleways but often you are riding in bus lanes. the problem with this is the buses (obviously) and licensed taxi cabs who are also allowed to use them. They seem to have little consideration for cyclists, and I have been "cut up" several times. Diesel fumes are also a problem. On balance, though, I am quite enjoying my cycling, and I was surprised at how quickly I can get around, even as unfit as I am!
As in other countries e.g. Paris, there are now stands where bicycles can be hired. Payment is made by credit card.
London has cycle paths , but some areas need cautious cycling as the cyclist will be at the side of busy roads.
A helmet is advisable.
Two days ago I composed a tip on the so-called "Boris Bikes", which are basically bikes for public hire and available at "docking stations" in various locations around central London. The theory is that you can either become a member for one day, one week or one year which allows you access and then you pay for the time you use the bike. They are really designed for short journeys so the first 30 minutes of any hire are free and then charges apply rising steeply the longer you have the bike. When you have completed your journey you "dock" the bike at another station and your credit / debit card is debited the appropriate amount. Job done. At least, that is the theory. Now let me tell you about the reality.
Two days ago, I signed up for the scheme, as I think it is a great way for me to get round and there are two docking stations near where I live. I went to my local cycle shop and splashed out on a helmet, which makes sense for cycling in London. If nothing else it caused some hilarity with my mates in the pub later on! I should explain that I cannot use the bicycles yet as I have to wait until they post me a "key" which allows me to access the bikes without using a credit / debit card every time. In the interests of VT research I decided to test drive or test pedal the system as a casual user, i.e. act as if I was a visitor to London so I could write a tip here about how easy or otherwise it was. OK, maybe I do have too much time on my hands.
Although sponsored by Barclays Bank, the system is controlled by Transport for London (TfL) which should have set alarm bells ringing. TfL are a disgrace, there is no other word for them. I cannot think of any other organisation that can disrupt the lives of so many hundreds of thousands of people on such a regular basis. I appreciate that running an integrated transport system in one of the world's major capitals cannot be easy but they seem to get it so wrong so often.
I shall digress slightly to cite you an example, and I promise you this is not staged. As I write this tip (1104 hours, 12th May, 2011) I have just checked the TfL website. In London there are 13 Tube (Underground, Metro, subway, whatever you want to call them) lines. As I write, and there are no planned engineering works, one is suspended, two are part suspended and a further two have delays. That is five out of 13 lines not functioning as they should. Such is the way TfL seems to work so it is no wonder that Londoners complain about them
Back to the bikes. I went to my nearest docking station, armed with a debit card that is completely different from the one I had used to join the scheme online as well as the one I had used. The two cards are from different banks with different account numbers and both are in funds. I did this so the system would not get "confused" as to the card I had registered with. At the docking station, I began to follow the fairly convoluted touch screen instructions. This necessitated my having to physically hunker down on my haunches as the screen is situated so low down and I am 6'5".
Thinking the docking station was perhaps defective in some way, I walked to the next docking station and, not wishing to bore you, I will keep it brief and say that exactly the same thing happened - two cards declined after a lengthy procedure hunkered down. Thankfully there was no-one else waiting or I would have been really embarrassed. By now, I was a little concerned about my cards and so I went to the nearest bank, a Barclays ironically, where I managed to withdraw money on both cards with no problem at all. The failure therefore is entirely with the TfL system.
Somewhat annoyed, I returned home with my still pristine cycling helmet and wrote to the contact email on the website. I got a computer generated reply saying they would get back to me within five working days. OK folks, no rush, I'll just walk until you send me a key or write to me. In the interests of fair reporting, I shall update this tip when or if they reply to me.
Our mayor, Boris Johnson, came up with this idea as an initiative to reduce pollution, combat traffic congestion, and as a way of getting the people in the capital fitter!
Many other cities like Copenhagen have this sort of arrangement, so it was bound to catch on at some stage I suppose..
Not all stations have this facility, but the ones that do have a decent number of bikes locked neatly to a cycle stand. There is a payment terminal stating the costs, locations of surrounding drop-offs (other stations with the same facility).
As an example, the first 30 minutes are free, upto 60 minutes costs 1 GBP, etc. But you must have arranged access to the bikes in the first place by paying an access fee.
Please don't think of eloping with the bikes, as the non-return fee is 300 GBP, a lot more than these Barclays-sponsored bikes are worth!!
Access fees: 24hr/7d/annual = 1/5/45 GBP
Usage charges: 60 mins = 1 GBP, 90m = 4, 120m = 6, 150m = 10, 180m = 15, 360m = 35, upto 24hrs (max single usage period) = 50 GBP !
Late return charge = 150 GBP
Non-return = 300 GBP
Damage = 300 (max)
Transport for London have now public bikes for hire at various sites across London. The bike is hired with a debit or credit card and then taken on its journey and the parked and left at another bike storage area.
Charges are reasonable with details shown on the website.
See also - http://www.guardian.co.uk/uk/video/2010/dec/01/boris-bikes-scheme-expansion
In 1998 taxi bicycles and rickshaws were introduced in London. Several companies now offer this service:
Average prices are from £40.00 for a one hour tour.
Throughout London you can rent a bicycle at the street at CYCLE HIRE points.
24 hours £1
7 days £5
Up to 30 minutes FREE
Up to an hour £1
Up to one and a half hours £4
Up to two hours £6
Up to two and a half hours £10
Up to three hours £15
Up to six hours £35
Up to 24 hours (maximum) £50
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