Launch of the London Cycle Hire Scheme

So you might just have noticed that the London Cycle Hire Scheme launched on Friday and below you can find a small round-up of some of what the internet has had to say about it.

At launch there were apparently 5,000 of the 6,000 bikes available at most of the 400 or so docking stations and bar a few grumbles, some technical hitches at the Holborn docking station and some sticky brakes, people mostly seem pretty positive.

The main complaints appear to be about the name of the scheme, the level of advertising the sponsor has managed to wangle and the fact that that you need a special key rather than just use your Oyster card.

I was speaking to a friend who works for TfL last night and apparently when the scheme was specified, TfL didn’t own the rights to Oyster (they do now) so to play it safe they had to use an alternative system. Here’s hoping they’ll integrate Oyster in the future.

Still I’m sure the sponsor doesn’t mind – now thousands of people will be walking around London with an ad for a certain high street bank on their key ring. War On The Motorist got round this very easily:

“A few seconds with some nail varnish remover, and my key’s now unbranded.”

And it didn’t take long for the culture jamming to start.

The scheme seems to have got off to a good start with Bike Biz reporting that

Over 9,000 people have signed up since applications opened on Friday July 23rd and have had their membership keys sent to them. 2,000 keys have been activated so far.

RealCycling has the good news

The member-key system works fine. Taking a bike out is easy and quick: you don’t have to log in, you just stick your key into a slot, release your bike and cycle away.

Redocking it automatically checks it in: you don’t have to log out or do anything. The bikes are fine: a bit low-geared perhaps, and the front-heavy handlebars can feel like you’re pushing a wheelbarrow full of cats; but they’re comfy, straightforward, and hop-on-hop-off easy to ride. There’s no lock: so what? Use the next docking station. And no helmet: quite right too.

For £1, about the third of a cost of a muffin or coffee on station concourse, you can ride the bikes for any number of half-hours in a day free.

Pocket-Lint also has an article discussing 6 features of the bike design while London Cyclist has a run down on how to use the docking stations.

My key was sitting on the doormat when I got back home on Friday and I had the opportunity to give the bikes a go yesterday. I didn’t spot any other hire bikes on the street and it’s apparently still a novel sight for people – it was bizarre riding down Regents Street and having people staring and pointing at me as I passed.

They’re hefty machines with very fat tyres and the gearing is such that the top speed is quite modest (probably a good idea given the lack of helmets), but they were a stable and smooth ride.

Arriving at Victoria I assumed that there would be a big docking station out front but the nearest one was around the back of the station which surprised me. According to my TfL friend there were problems getting planning approval for some sites. If you have a smartphone I’d recommend downloading one of the apps (Android or iPhone) to help you find stations when you’ve finished your ride.

I expect I’ll mostly go for the odd £1 daily hire when I’ve taken public transport into town on the weekends but I’m definitely glad it’s here at long last.