If you’re a new adventurer in the capital or are simply not a recluse, you’re bound to have spotted at least one rail of nicely lined-up blue and grey bikes. No, everyone in London does not own the same bike and trust me - Londoners are not that neat when it comes to parking their vehicles.
These ‘Boris Bikes’ (named after Mayor of London Boris Johnson) are in fact one of the latest additions to London’s vast transport network. The Barclays cycle hire scheme, which first docked its wheels in 2010, allows users to pick up a bike, ride to their destination, and dump it off again at the most convenient docking station.
There are 8,000 bikes at 570 locations across central London, and the average number of hires a month is around half a million.
Though popular with commuters during the midweek morning rush, cycling couldn’t be a better way to explore the city and see the sights it has to offer. You can whittle away the weekends without the worry of competing for bikes with business people who swing their satchels over their back and hitch their heels to complete their journey to work on two wheels.
You can draw on your Whiggins-style ginger sideburns and whizz around the city in half an hour for free (or for £1 for an hour), fuelling your adrenalin-junkie self as you wobble your way through beeping taxis and dodge swerving motorists. Or you can stay clear of the hustle ‘n’ bustle and ride the clear cycle-friendly highways; breeze your way over the River Thames bridges; or take a more pleasant pedal around the luscious parks. A two hour rental costs £6 and three hour rentals are £15. Visit TFL’s website for specific routes.
The bikes’ stiff, metal, Barclays-advert-plastered design may not recreate quite the picture perfect portrait of 19th-century London transport with a dainty frame and hand-woven basket. But it has a space at the front to store your sandwich nonetheless.
Hiring the bikes is easy. You can use a credit or debit card to pay by phone or online, or take the easy route and pay on the machine next to the docking station. Enjoy the feeling of fresh air whisping around your face and smirking as you see people sweating when they emerge from the underground? Avid bikers can also buy a members Barclay cycle hire key to give them quicker and easier access, allowing them to plug ‘n’ play their way through the day.
There are 400 docking stations in central London, located within 300-400 metres from each other.
Barclays even has its own Boris Bike app called the ‘cyclehire app’ which has a GPS system to identify your nearest available bike in central London. Whichever apartment in London you are residing in, you can guarantee that a bike will be close to handle.
With Johnson recently announcing plans to build a 15-mile cross-rail cycle path and eye-level traffic lights for cyclists, they are likely to remain an integral part of the traffic grid. And the boris bike is even travelling overseas. No, the bikes do not boast chitty-chitty-bang-bang inflatable floats under its tyres that automatically expand when they hit water (though I don’t suspect that’s been proved). The concept has been given the green light in Belfast.
Whether you’re tired of the tube, simply after a change of routine, or seeking stunning views at small prices, cycling can deliver… And the Boris bike is all you need to get geared up.