#199 Boris Bikes
If London Mayor Boris Johnson is dragged down to hell by vengeful little pop-eyed sulphur demons/wafted up to heaven as part of the Rapture by cherubs looking uncannily like him* tomorrow, his most lasting legacy may be the name Londoners have bestowed to the cycle hire system installed during his term. Officially, it’s the Barclays Cycle Hire scheme, but the pic of a cartoon Boris cheerfully pedaling away right on their main page is a dead giveaway.
“You don’t need to be a member to use the scheme!” the site reminds you. We’re not, and we did.
“I’ll fall off,” I warned Mrs Brown.
“Probably,” she said cheerfully. “Anyway, we’re only cycling to Borough, about a mile away.”
It really is very simple to use – without having registered , phoned up, given our address or anything else, we were able to just stick a credit card in the column next to the bikes at the end of our road and get a code to remove a couple of them. It felt gratifyingly like stealing.
My God, they’re heavy though. These aren’t so much bikes, as very small tanks. They have to be, of course, to stand up to the pressures of weather, attempted thievery, vandalism, impacts and the general rigours of living on the streets in London. Actual cycling is the least of these bikes’ worries. Still, at £1 a rental, with the first half-hour free, you can’t really complain – but prices rise steeply after the first hour, to a maximum of £50 after 24 hours.
With just three gears and automatic lights, they really are a pared-down, no-nonsense way of cycling. Mind you, for a London cyclist, riding a Boris Bike is the equivalent of wearing thick tortoisehell NHS specs. As I wobbled along, I got cries of “Boris Wanker!” and “Be rich enough to buy a good bike!” from the small-bummed, lycra-slathered ‘real’ cyclists. I took satisfaction in knowing that when next I drove, I would pile them up on my fender like so many flies. The only thing worse than the bloody cyclists were the bloody cars, and the only thing worse than both were the bloody pedestrians – getting in my way on
MY PAVEMENT the road where I respectfully and legally cycled, the bastards. What with so many people cars around, it took an age to trundle past them all.
I honestly didn’t think it was possible, but it looks like the Boris Bikes have become a functional, efficient and near-flawlessly implemented part of London Transport – if not exactly elegant. Soon, with that grim affection we have for our transport, Londoners will wonder what we did without them.
I check my phone when we reached Borough. “28 minutes – just in time!” We docked the bikes with a satisfying ‘clunk’, and just walked away. Perfect.
(It would have been quicker to walk, but that’s not the point, now, is it?)
*delete as politically appropriate