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Steppenpig

I Boris-Biked London

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By coincidence, I was cycling round London on Monday too. I know there's a thread on it (here) but the title was too obscure.

Anyway, I had always thought it was an insane idea, on economic and personal safety grounds, and it seemed to have a load of teething problems in Paris (maintence problems, theft, bikes all ending up in the wrong place), which I would say is a nuch beter city for cycling than London (but still fairly bad).

Well, I had most of the day to kill between transport connections, so I finally tried it and it actually worked out rather well. I couldn't work out where to put my credit card at first, but a kind passer-by helped me. (It goes upwards into the dullish metallic looking bit). I then had a lot of trouble releasing the bike, and almost gave up. You get a 5 digit code, but when you press the buttons, the make no sign or sound, and I thought they were failing to register. Judging by the state of them, a lot of people have been having the same problem, as it looked like they had been attacked with keys or coins. So I tried with keys and coins, but still it didn't seem to register. Eventually, I just tried punching in the code, and it just worked.

What was weird, was that they seemed to be really popular, I did a quick count, and between 10% and 20% of the cyclists I saw seemd to be using them, yet all the bike stations seemed to be virtually full. In fact I was a bit worried that I wouldn't be able to park, as litterally only one or two spaces were available, with the other 20 or so all having bikes still in them.

The bikes were ok. Looked a bit heavy, but were fairly effortless to ride. I thought the saddles needed to be tipped back a bit, as I felt I was sliding forward all the time. The brakes on one of them were a bit crap too. Also, a proper basket thing would have been useful to me, as I had a couple of books to carry, and that funny open sided tray with bungee didn't look like it would keep them safe.

I was particularly surprised how respectful the other traffic was. I expected it to be like a scene fro "Police Story" with taxis ploughing through crowds of Japanese tourists, and them all flying in the air or something, but most of the time I felt resonably safe. The streets of London are a nightmare though, you really need a mountain bike to get through some of those potholes, and I'm sure the traffic flow could be simplified with a few one way streets and stuff, so there weren't so many fiendishly dangerous junctions with all options available.

I still think you would be mad to try it, unless you were an experienced cyclist and knew London pretty well (I do know London pretty well, but my direction finding skills are a bit haphazard).

One slightly odd thing was, there were no bike stations at the mainline stations. I can actually imagine, if they restricted the traffic in central London and made it quite a bit calmer, you might actually one day have thousands of commuters pouring into London and just hopping straight onto a bike.

It was also excellent value, you pay 2 quid for the day, then any journey up to 30 mins is free, and if you keep it longer than 30 mins it gets increasingly (and eventually astronomically) expensive. I thought it was a bit weird at first, but actually it's rather clever.

Well done Boris. You were right, I was wrong. More of these please.

*head got mildly sunburned though.

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I can imagine it's pretty expensive. I must admit, in my excitement I'd forgotten about the cost, and now that you remind me, the system probably is unsustainable. They seemed to sponsored by Barclays, but I don't know if that covers the costs. For some reason those sort of specifically designed bikes are always really expensive in the first place, then the cost of the stations, maintenance, vandalism, transporting bikes from where there's too many, back to where there's too few etc.

It's a bit like trains. It's hard to understand why they seem to be so expensive, when they seem like they ought to be cheap.

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One slightly odd thing was, there were no bike stations at the mainline stations. I can actually imagine, if they restricted the traffic in central London and made it quite a bit calmer, you might actually one day have thousands of commuters pouring into London and just hopping straight onto a bike.

They may not be _in_ the stations, but they are there, believe me. You very quickly learn to recognise the other commuters that you are racing from platform 3 to beat around the corner to get to one of the last three* bikes in the rack. There are already thousands of us doing just that every morning, as you rightly expect. Hence one of the big expenses in running the system is shifting the bikes in the opposite direction to the general flow of commuters in the morning so they don't all end up in the centre and back again in the evening (as there simply aren't enough racks to cope otherwise). That was (and still is) the biggest failure and oversight of the whole system. Thousands of commuters all going in the same direction at roughly the same time of day creates a tidalwave of bikes into the centre London in the morning and out again in the evening.

in fact, in my experience, the only limiting factor to the number of people who are using it precisely as you describe is the rate at which the TFL guys can replenish the racks around the stations.

*Insert any other small number.

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I saw somewhere that it costs an awful lot of money to run this Boris Bike scheme, over a K per bike per annum. How the hell is this possible?

could almost buy two new bromptons for that price. looking forward to future super lightweight carbon nanotube technology and other technology when a folding bike will be less than 10lb in weight.

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could almost buy two new bromptons for that price. looking forward to future super lightweight carbon nanotube technology and other technology when a folding bike will be less than 10lb in weight.

Some people might think that you are joking, or smoking something interesting, but I reckon that you have foretold the futur.

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Some people might think that you are joking, or smoking something interesting, but I reckon that you have foretold the futur.

:rolleyes: .. i've seen it ..

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