Wednesday, 4 August 2010

[Bankname] Cycle Hire Scheme

I can't remember if I have mentioned it on these pages but for months now, I have keenly been waiting for the cycle hire scheme that was implemented on Friday in the capital.

I think it is a fabulous idea and Ken Livingstone should be applauded for starting the process that sees it come to life now. Yes, the "BorisBikes" were Ken's idea, let's not forget that.

Online registration to the scheme opened on Friday 23rd at 6am and at 9.35am, I was one of the first to register.

Unfortunately, this is also when my travails started. Despiste three attempts with 2 different cards, my payment could not be processed. Although the website's log page looked like my bank accounts could possibly have been debited 3 times (They have a very confusing way of showing transactions called the "Oyster Maths" apparently).

I had to ring the call centre where the otherwise friendly operator didn't seem to quite know what to do. Finally we had to go through the whole payment process again over the phone a couple of days later when I was called back.

My key arrived promptly and I was able to activate it online without problem.

On Friday 31st, I went to my local docking station, hoping to cycle to work and be among the very first to use the bikes. Alas, something wasn't working properly and despite trying 2 different bikes, I had to take the bus to work as usual. In the evening I tried my luck again, but that didn't work either.

In the meantime, however, the count down on the 7-day access period I had purchased had been started as of the morning. Again I had to ring the call centre and again the operator, while helpful, didn't seem to know what to do and said I would be called back by someone from the customer service department. Six days later I am still waiting for this to happen.

On Sunday evening, on a whim I decided to try to get a bike from the station on Wardour Street and this time I did manage to do so.

Since then I have been using the scheme several times every day without problems and I am absolutely loving cycling around London. Getting the bikes and discarding them is as easy and practical as I was expecting.

I have two reservations about the bikes though:

First the carrying element at the front of the bike, is too small and unpractical. I can't put my backpack there for example. The fact that it's open on the sides doesn't help.

Second: the gears are not hard enough. I only use the 3rd gear (which should probably be the first one) and often finding it pointless to carry on pedalling when in a gentle slope.

But appart from all that, I am loving it and am considering getting a year membership.

Update - 06/08/10:
I am now on my third promise of a call back from TfL and not being very hopefully. This morning I had to take the bus to work because my access had run out (as it should have, had I been able to use the bikes on the first day when I tried). Being trapped again in that trundling sardine tin, made me reflect on how liberating cycling around London is.

I have now purchased an annual access, so hopefully all the administrative problems I have described above are now a thing of the past.

View my growing number of posts about the scheme here.

5 comments:

  1. Glad it's finally working for you. The online registration at the TFL website has been down for days. The call centre operators are useless, I agree. I gave up the registration process half way through because the girl I was speaking to couldn't speak English well enough to understand me. Not reassuring when a completely conventional Anglo name and address takes 5 minutes to convey. They have a call back system which, as you also note, doesn't work. The call centre is obviously understaffed and the low-paid work means the usual barely competent teenagers.

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  2. Sorry to hear about your woes. You can send feedback here (they actually asked for it): enquiries@barclayscyclehire.tfl.gov.uk

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  3. Getting rid of the bikes isn't easy when all the slots are full. Trying to drop a bike off at London Waterloo yesterday I had to try 3 different places. The last place had a slot, but it wouldn't 'lock in' - and none of the terminals were working, so I suspect their system was down. I called in and let them know I was done with the bike and had to catch a show - worried to see what will show up on my bill!

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  4. Sounds ideal! (apart from the teething troubles). I wonder if they'll extend it out to the 'burbs?

    Well done for giving due credit to Ken :-)

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  5. They seem to be having massive problems with the infrastruture around the bikes. Part of the website has been down for a couple of days now and yes some docking stations are not working properly (I think we can blam... thank Boris for that:)).

    There are plans to extend the scheme, I believe, though I can't really see it going much further than zone2: free trips are limited to 30min (so not ideal for a commute longer than within zone1) and the number of bikes and stations needed to cover the whole of London would go into the thousands (400 for Zone1 alone already).

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