About 3 weeks ago, a number of "cycle stations" started popping up around the streets of Central London. This initiative by the Mayor of London had me fascinated, and I was an early sign up to the scheme. After a simple online registration, I received my key about 10 days ago. It has been in my pocket ever since. On each occasion I may have had a chance to use a bike, I have either not been alone, had too much to carry, or the weather has let me down!
Not so this morning ! As I set off on an early start, it was a cool London morning with a light spattering of rain, it was the perfect chance for me to test the scheme and do "my bit" for the environment and London's traffic.
My local cycle station is just a 3 minute walk from home, and suitably located to take me to my office down the quieter back streets of London, rather than the usual busy Marylebone Road and Tottenham Court Road that I would normally walk down.
The system is a breeze to use. Choose a bike, insert the key, a green light comes on, and away you go ! The bikes themselves are sturdy and comfortable. They have adjustable seats, 3 gears, lights on the front and back and nice little "tray" to keep a small bag or briefcase.
So away I went on my adventure. Feeling a tad self conscious as I wobbled during the first leg of my journey, I soon got comfortable and started to enjoy the ride. It doesn't take long to notice how many cyclists there are in London ... something I noticed immediately when I was one of them. I also noticed how well cycle lanes are marked out (although less well obeyed by motorists). It is an interesting sense of freedom to move around Central London on a bike. You are faster than you would be on foot. You can use the road network to your advantage, but then can bypass it when it works against you (I confess to having made short journeys on the pavement when I had to go the wrong way down a one way road, or simply ignoring a no entry sign to go down some quiet streets that would take several minutes to navigate around in a car). Nevertheless, the times you do have to cross into heavy traffic, you do need to be spatially aware and be respectful of the faster moving heavier vehicles around you.
My first bike :-)
Upon arrival to my destination, although having done my research before I set off, I opened an app on my phone to find the nearest docking point to park my bike. Amazingly convenient, as the app told me which of the 3 nearby stations had empty slots available and then guided me there.
I arrived to my meeting on time (but out of breath ... 2nd gear was a struggle at times!), and of course had an ice breaker to start the conversations with.
Over the past 2 weeks I have spent a lot of time in London and have been impressed with how many cycle stations have popped up. I think this is an excellent initiative that will not only contribute in its own small way to the environment and keeping London moving, but it is a genuinely convenient facility to have around town and it put a little smile on my face this morning !
I hope the forthcoming winter doesn't slow down the take up of this scheme ... I will certainly be ready to keep using it as long as the skies remain dry.