Interesting London Cycle Hire stats posted on The Guardian:
Archive for the ‘London Cycle Hire Scheme’ Category
More than a Barclays? A month later
There always seems to be a dip after the euphoria, when the love at first sight begins to wear off, and you’re left with the day to day warts and all.
My dip happened last night, after a sustained blast of alienation – instead of the stimulation or solace, I usually find ‘doing something different’ at the Barbican – I walk along the Highwalk to Moorgate, and as its stopped raining, decide to stay out in the night air, and take a ride home.
I check the map for nearest station – street empty and so is the station, save for one bike – out of service. Check map again, head for Lothbury and Cheapside. Docking station. No bikes.
A man comes by riding a Boris heading north – shall I call/run after him, too late – it’s unlikely he’ll be dropping it off in the City. I tramp onto to the next – Queen street. Think I’m in luck, there are bikes – but as I get nearer realise these belong to Domino Pizza delivery – Not a Boris or a Barclay anywhere to be seen.
Do I really want to be spending my time trying to second guess where HE’s got to, traipsing around after Him?
Perhaps I just have to accept that these bikes are for others – the new generation – commuters with a settled, preferably early bird, travel patterns, those able to plan and sustain regular employment, a satisfactory relationship, techno-geeks, with Apps and an i-phone.
All I was looking for was spontaneity and freedom. And a bit of the action.
I leave the City behind, and walk over the Bridge to Southwark. It’s my patch and anyway its always a joy to view the city at night, from long derided, South London. I nip down off the Bridge to the medieval street below – and find a bike station with a good service, near the Globe.
Adjust the seat, bag in strap, and ride high. I set off delighted, I felt like a thief who’d struck lucky – for that moment, I’d go it right, I was invincible, a citizen once again.
And how is it for you?
Boris bikes – More than a Barclays? Yes, Yes, Yes.
I left Transport for London, earlier this summer and I’ve been thinking about the changing face of London’s cycling, and more theoretically and critically, about the ‘discourse of social, cultural and behavioural’ change. And so to London bike hire. For good or ill, forever associated with the brand Barclays, which has a long, and not always distinguished, history, as part of London’s rhyming slang. So in that vein, I shall continue this musing.
As evidenced by political rivals falling over themselves to claim credit, commentators worldwide and us showing forbearance and all wanting the scheme to be a success: it’s been good for Boris. So far so good. The next question is, how was it for me, and you, and you and you..?
My answer is mm… good. You see riding a Boris Bike feels profoundly different to riding my own bike – the Boris is heavier and offers a more relaxed riding position – I can turn my upper body and look behind – the expereince makes me feel a whole new person, a ‘valued’ member of a club from which I can come and go as and when I please, without all the old baggage and stereotyping. I get a quite different response from other people, especially taxi drivers – more patient, more friendly, more noticed, and appreciative even.
Of course, it could just be me, who at this stage in life is ripe for a transformative experience, after all its August, and there’s a holiday atmosphere which I didn’t notice when I was working. But it was only six or seven years ago that the Evening Standard used to run one feature a year, each August, on cycling/cyclists – those monsters that behaved badly and disturbed the peace of London’s parks.
Now there’ve been days when I’ve felt as if I’ve given the freedom of the city (after 8+ years as Head of the Cycling Centre of Excellence at TfL, and after going to 4 different sites before I could drop off the Boris bike at 23.30, I feel I’ve earned it) and yet there is something more, a kind of right of passage, a legitimacy for every consenting adult.
OK then, there’s at least two of us who are enjoying the experience, but will it last, will it be as easy and natural (spontaneous and reliable) a ‘pick me up’ as getting a lift from a friend. Has cycling broken out of the slot where everyone loves to hate us – because it’s now part of the public transport system instead of constant reminder of the me generation – who disregard others, and are scary, arrogant and smug?
The pods have already transformed the streetscape – at least in those up and coming areas like Bermondsey and north southwark that were just waiting for a new, iconic public transport system to align all the other positive messages and uses of the public realm – to show that we can, after all, share resources, and admit that we feel better for it.
But our relationship with Boris bike hire can not live on love alone – and I’m not just thinking about who’s going to pay for the mortgage, but whether the practical operational problems will be sorted out before the winter gloom and old habits kick back in.
A guest post by Rose Ades
This is a typical image from London’s Critical Mass. Hundred of cyclists gathered in an iconic London location. We are paused on Parliament Square. Cyclists are lifting their bikes in the air. Music is playing, people are cheering and bells ringing. Someone lifts one of the new Cycle Hire bikes in the air, which cannot be easy. But it is worth it as it is greeted with even more cheers, whistles and laughter.
As I cycle home from Critical Mass I am surprised to see people sitting on the stationary bikes in one of the docking stations on Gray’s Inn Road. They are sitting, talking and peddling, as if the bikes are exercise bikes in a gym. I join this impromptu stationary social cycling group. The couple I talk to are in their mid forties. They say they have never cycled but are “interested” and are just “giving it a go”. They explain how they learned to adjust the seat height and are getting “a feel for the bikes”. Even without becoming a member or riding the bikes, here the scheme is providing an interesting and unique introduction to cycling the city.
London’s Cycle Hire scheme launched today. Overnight the many docking stations dotted around the city filled up up with fleets of new bikes. Located only 300metres apart in Central London, each one docks around 16 bikes. Given there are apparently 400 of them, that means over 6000 new bikes in the city.
At present you need to register before you can access the bikes though a casual use system might be introduced later in the year. Right now however, a membership key costs £3, then you pay an access fee of either £1 for 24hours, £5 for a week or £45 for the year. Bikes are free to use for 30mins. Charges then apply (£1 for an hour, £4 for 1.5hours, £6 for 2 hours etc).
The system is clearly designed for short rides in the city centre. Given the close proximity of the docking stations, people will no doubt set out swapping bikes every 29minutes or so to get longer cheaper usage. Given 33% of all trips in London are less than 1mile and 85% are less than 3miles, this system is ideal for central London.
Cost? At first I thought £45 was quite steep for annual membership. But if you do not already have a bike and have been considering cycling in the city then £45 for constant access to a fleet of fully services bikes is pretty good introductory deal. You do not have to commit to cycling – you can just give it a go. You don’t have to worry about parking, maintenance or storing it at home. You do not need to carry your own tools or puncture repair kits and you do not have to worry about theft.
How do they ride? I saw quite a few people riding these bikes yesterday around the city and some were on Critical Mass. I spoke with riders who were all pretty excited about the scheme. They said the usual; that the bikes were heavy and not super responsive but they did not expect this. Instead, they were easy to use and the sit-up-and-beg position was a nice way to peddle casually and see the city. Additionally, they said that many people have come up to them, like me, to ask about the experience. This in itself made London feel much friendly than normal.
Branding. The sheer extent of Barclays branding on the bikes came as a bit of shock. There are six logos on each bike. There are even more on each docking station. And you cannot do an online search for London’s Cycle Hire Scheme without being prompted to go to Barclays Bikes. I understand the financial reality that commercial investment might have been essential to getting the programme off the ground, however as far as I am aware Barclays contributed to TFLs scheme – they do not own it. Yet, here are over 6000 bikes with an astonishing amount of advertising on them. I love cycling but I am not a fan of personally contributing to the advertising campaigns of big financial organisations. I have heard that a few bikes have been returned already with some of the branding scratched. It will be interesting to see what other people think.
Very early verdict. The scheme is a very welcome and exciting addition to the city. It makes cycling look easy, as if you can just grab a bike and cycle to and from your destination – which it is of course to those who regularly cycle. But for those who do not cycle in London, the thought can be daunting. Interviewees have regularly talked about the stuff you need to carry with you when cycling (tools, lock, lights etc). This scheme virtually eliminates this particular barrier to entry. In addition to seeing more and more bikes on the road, and reducing short car journeys, the fleets of stationery bikes located at regular intervals on the street serve to reinforce the presence of cyclists in the city. It will be interesting to see how the scheme unfolds and is adopted by Londoners over the coming months. And this is before I have even ridden one!