I’m a people person. So you’d be forgiven for thinking that I like to spend a bunch of hours a day standing nose-to-shoulder on the bus or tube.
I don’t though.
What I do like is getting off the bus, punching a bunch of numbers into a screen to free up a heavy bike and zipping through downtown London on said bike.
Yup. As much as I love(d) actually being a bike owner, there is something even more convenient about being able to pick up a bike from a docking station and scooting from place to place. No attachment, no maintenance – just pick it up whenever you want, and dump it off when you’re done. Think no more about it.
Not only has this arrangement got me out of the necessity of taking two (or more) buses in the morning, it’s actually significantly faster than straight transit. And it gives me options when I’m moving through the city; sometimes I bike, sometimes I walk, sometimes I’m on the bus, and other times I even plunge into the sweaty bowels of this city and hop a tube. It’s about freedom. Of choice.
There is of course a downside: sometimes the docking stations don’t work, and you end up meandering like an unfocused pinball from machine to machine trying to make the docking station release just one lousy fucking bike.
Or once the cycling leg of your commute is done you can end up circling neighbourhoods looking for a docking station. But it gets easier, once you know your spots.
On another level, the TFL Barclays Bike Hire London City Gadabout Arrangement also suffers from being known more colloquially as the ‘Boris Bike’ scheme. Boris merely carried on the scheme started by his predecessor ‘Red’ Ken Livingstone. So perhaps they should be known as Kencycles. But that’s just nitpickery. Let’s think big picture.
Right now these bikes are holding a significant added advantage over buses: I can spend my bike time frantically muttering my Edinburgh show to myself, and not look like a crazy. (I do have headphones in, so in theory it appears that I’m on the phone. That’s what I tell myself, anyway. Not crazy at all.)
And, as Edinburgh draws ever nearer, this precious rehearsal time trumps all. Even rainstorms.