Boris Johnson hasn’t exactly covered himself in glory of late. I did used to think that the ‘bumbling fool’ act was hiding something more clever; now I’m not so sure. Love him or hate him, Boris did bring one touch of genius to London in his time as Major: Boris Bikes.
They were supposed to be called Barclay’s Bikes. Later, they were to be called Santander Bikes. No. Everyone I’ve ever met calls them Boris bikes!
If your reading this from outside of the UK, Boris Johnson is a UK political figure. Famous for Boris Bikes, painting ridiculous things on a big red bus and mop blond hair.
Every single time I get on a Boris Bike, I smile! I get a feeling reminiscent of when I first rode a bike. I smile because I’m not on that awful tube, getting sweatier than if I was riding. I smile because I’m not on a bus, which is stuck in traffic. I smile because I’m on a bike, making my own way at my own time.
I know they look about as aerodynamic as a pillow and about as heavy as bus; and that’s because they are. However, there are many good points. The riding position for example is commanding without being too upright. The gearing is incredibly good for take-off. The big tyres comfort all the bumps and lumps on London Streets and I’ve even started to like the look of them now!
There was a little snobbery from the bike community when they first came out: “Those things are heavy and slow”. They are indeed heavy and as good as the gearing is for take-off the bike runs out of gears incredibly quickly; leaving your pedal cadence a lot higher than it would usually be.
What I would say to these comments is: this is London. You are not riding a mountain stage at Tour de France. You are riding through narrow streets, between traffic lights and around buses. I don’t want to be riding that fast in London and I certainly don’t want to turn up to work in Lycra.
The best thing about the Boris Bikes though is Knightrider mode. You park up your bike outside a restaurant where you are meeting your friends. You maybe go to a pub or bar afterwards in a different part of town. When you leave that establishment you turn the corner and there is your bike, ready to go. It’s probably not the same bike but you won’t tell the difference!
There are more than 11,500 bikes at over 750 docking stations situated every 300 to 500 metres in Central London. You can pay for occasional or ‘casual’ use using a card at most of these docking stations. Or, you can pay a yearly subscription. More information can be found here: https://tfl.gov.uk/modes/cycling/