Just a few short weeks ago, Boris Johnson (London’s Mayor) launched London’s Barclay Bike Hire. Even though there have been some “teething” problems, such as undocking problems, bike shortages, over-charged accounts. But, these glitches have not stopped the overwhelming response from Londoners. In just a matter of two weeks, over 100,000 journeys have been logged. Let’s call this 140 Million GBP project a huge success.
The quality of the bikes is top-notch. Built in Canada, the Boris Bikes have a sturdy frame, flashing front and rear lights for safety, a basket on the front for your belongings, and all the mechanics enclosed behind a cover to protect your clothing from the chain. Boris Johnson called them “the Rolls-Royce of bicycles.” I’ve ridden one of the bikes, although it is heavy, it gives one a secure feeling.
The later part of September, you and I will be able to hire a bike without a subscription or electronic key. We will merely swipe our credit cards, receive a code, enter that code, unhitch the bike and off we go. This is a great way to move around London quickly. The bikes are an easy ride even for the most inexperienced. London traffic is terrible! If you’re in a taxi, you could be immersed in traffic. Bike cycles move you along quickly rather than being stalled in traffic light cycles.
As Mayor Johnson exclaimed to me when I asked him to give a message to Americans planning to visit London: “Get off your butts and come ride our bikes.” We can do that!!
Update on Boris Bikes: Good article by Tim Adams in Sunday’s NYT’s Mag (3-20-11), Breaking Away: Why velophilia is the closest thing London has to a political philosophy. I’ve used both the Paris Velib and London Barclay Bikes. The Boris Bikes are hell for stout. They are heavy, clunky and devoid of sex appeal. However, I believe they will prove to have staying power over the sleeker Paris version.
To add one more piece of info for those of you heading to the London 2012 or just off for a visit to London…tourists can now rent a Boris Bike without having to have a “key” (see the video above). Boris Johnson promised this short-term access and he has now delivered! Thanks Boris.