Posted by: Emily | August 1, 2010

My Barclays Cycle Hire disappointment

On my ride home from work on Friday I saw someone on one of the new Barclays Cycle Hire bikes for the first time. Even if you’re not a natural bike-spotter they’re kind of hard to miss with their distinctive blue colour. After seeing the first, I started keeping count and by the time I got to five I decided to find out more. I pulled up next to a guy on one at some lights and asked him how he was finding it. “Slow” was the immediate response. He paused for a second and added “It’s good for around here, but I wouldn’t want to take it to Richmond Park”. In fairness to the scheme, training rides around Richmond Park are not what these bikes are intended for and I doubt I’ll run into one anywhere outside of Zone Two or possibly Zone Three at a push. If nothing else, after you get past the first hour or two it starts to get very expensive. A full day costs £50 and if you keep it for more than 24 hours it’s an immediate £150 late return charge. This is a scheme designed for short rides around the centre of London. Nevertheless, I think it’s a great idea and was keen to give it a go to see what the bikes are like to ride and whether it really is as easy as “just turn up and go” as the TFL site claims.

Having located my nearest docking station – less than two miles away – I cycled over there this afternoon. My plan was to take one of the bikes for a free 30 minute spin around Regent’s Park and see how it did. I have to admit that by the time I got there I was quite excited and looking forward to seeing how fast I could do a Park Loop. Credit card in hand, I was ready to plug and play when I saw the bright yellow sign informing me that the bikes were currently only available for members and advised me to apply online for membership. How typical. I was under the impression that the whole point of the scheme was to be quick and easy to use. Having to pre-apply online is neither quick nor easy if you want a bike there and then. No doubt this will change in the future and it’s probably an easy enough membership application process, but just the fact that I can’t turn up and get a bike is enough to put me off. For now I’ll stick to my beloved Tempo for cycling in and around London and leave the Cycle Hire experiment for another day.

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