Free hire this weekend, August 22nd and 23rd
It is time for a celebration of the Boris bike which has been roaming the streets of London for 5 years now. As a sort of reverse birthday present, Tfl and Santander are giving you free hire this weekend, Aug 22nd and 23rd, 2015. Huzzah!
First however, I start with excuses. I have been living back in London for a year and this time 5 years ago when the Tfl scheme launched I had just arrived in the US. In the time since I have been back in London I have commuted daily but always used my own bike. Living in North London means I am not within easy reach of a dock so I have never been able to use them to get home. I am also somewhat adverse to standing in the street trying to figure something out, cowardly yes but there you go.
So, I sheepishly admitted to Andreas when I started with London Cyclist that I had never actually used a Boris bike. He was slightly appalled. Therefore, when we got the press release for this years free birthday weekend, it seemed like the natural time for me to give one a go, and of course blog about it. When the scheme launched we wrote about the experiences of early pioneers, I would like to think of myself as a cautious pioneer – I may be a bit late, but I avoided having to scout the trails.
We covered the birthday events last year as well, this year it seems a little less publicized and a little less involved When I went to the dock this morning the screen told me, eventually, that I have a free bike. It did make it seem like it was free for a whole 24 hours which is not true, the first 30 mins are free rather than £2. Thats still pretty good, you can get a long way in 30 mins if you really go for it. However, the person after me was perplexed and had no idea why it was free – it didn’t actually tell you on the screen, it just came up as £0. There seem to be no events this year, even though it is Santander’s Summer of Cycling and I am pretty surprised that there was nothing on the screen – maybe it’s too hard to change for just a weekend.
Boris bike success
In five years there have been over 42 million journeys on the bikes, and one poor bike has been used nearly 4300 times. A Boris bike has been up Mont Ventoux and back in less than 24 hours. There are currently 11,500 bikes in the fleet, docked in 748 stations with big plans for a further 1000 docks, although there is no time frame for expansion. In recent weeks with the tube strikes, the bikes have been in great demand with extra emergency docks put into parks, a real testament in a way to their use for the London commuter. The bikes are great for visitors as well, seeing this city by bike is really a very nice experience. With the change over from Barclays to Santander there are promises of better bikes, more top ups at popular stations as well as the continued expansion of the fleet.
My first hire
I downloaded the Santander app to rent a bike, but failed to get it to work. This may be a technical deficiency on my part, but I got frustrated and gave up as I couldn’t get it to connect and register my details. Therefore I had to just suck it up and go down to my nearest dock, one in Camden, and use the screen at the docking station. One thing the app did help with was finding a station with a good compliment of bikes, and I can see this being very useful should you be needing a bike at a busy time. Using the docking station turned out to not be the traumatic experience I was expecting. I do seem to have a general problem with devices that recognize me as a person – touch screens and automatic doors being the main ones – so I was pounding on the screen angrily a couple of times. However, I was successful and obtained a bike from the dock. They are not really too bad to ride, the gears are pretty low so hauling the weight away from a traffic light is fine. Most people will know all these things already.
I am pleased I have done it, and I am pleased it was free. I think a little more publicity wouldn’t have gone a miss to make it clear that hiring for 30 mins is free this weekend, but maybe they didn’t want a run on the bikes and the negative publicity that could cause. Who knows.
If you wish to hire a bike for free, you have until the end of tomorrow, Aug 23rd. Details can be found on the Santander/Tfl website.
What was your reason for first hiring a Boris bike? Do you have any big birthday plans for a bike this weekend? Let us know!