Friday, 17 February 2012

Boris Bikes - taking the positives

It is easy to list this problem or that problem with the Barclays Cycle Hire scheme (aka Boris Bikes).
In summary, the main issues appear to be:
  • expensive to set up and operate
  • limited scope of the scheme - there are only docking points in a fairly central area of London, and a few inner surrounding districts, and the hire charges make it prohibitively expensive to do more than cycle from one docking station to another.
  • issues about bikes to hire being in the right places
  • issues about docks to park bikes being full
  • not aimed at the under 14s, and thus making the scheme unattractive to families with children under that age who might travel to London for a day out (like our family, for example!)

However, the scheme also has many good points:

  • the large cost of the scheme is a very public statement about the seriousness of the desire by the Mayor of London (the "Boris" in the "Boris Bikes") and TfL (Transport for London - the official city transport organisation) to tackle the issue of traffic congestion which:
  1. is primarily caused by ever rising numbers of cars on the roads
  2. causes air pollution (with all the associated health issues for Londoners)
  3. results in lost productivity due to slow movement
  1. severe overcrowding at peak periods has dogged the Tube for many, many years, and adding extra capacity and/or routes is VERY, VERY, expensive indeed (think of all that tunnelling!). 
  2. using the cycle hire scheme as a substitute suddenly does not look so expensive after all!
  • for some users travelling into London by train, the scheme is very attractive - the most popular point for hires is Waterloo Station, in the mornings, and the most popular point for docking is the same site in the evenings
  1. the hire scheme also suits students who actually reside in the area where the scheme operates. Almost 25 years ago, I resided in student accommodation for about six months in Westminster (well within the area of operation of the scheme!)
  2. if the bike scheme had been around then, I, and many of my fellow students, would have used the scheme extensively
  • if one uses one's own bicycle one has to think about the theft risk, etc. etc. If one hires a Boris Bike instead, docking it in a rack near one's location, once the bike has been docked, one is no longer concerned about the security of the bike - it is "Boris's" problem :-)
  • if one is a regular rail traveller into London, the bike hire scheme can save one quite a bit of money:
  1. from where I live, there are two types of annual train ticket sold - one type is for just the train journey, the other type includes bus and metro (underground train, aka "The Tube") travel in London as well (a "Travelcard" ticket) 
  2. the difference is £480 pounds per year! (thats about $770 US, or 575 Euros)
  3. an annual "access fee" for the Boris Bikes scheme is only £45 per year
  4. so if one works within a thirty minute ride of a main railways station, and especially if one has no secure cycle storage at work, then one can make a major saving by using the "Boris Bikes" scheme!

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