Boris bikes

BasedinLondon is very pleased about the Boris bikes (for those who may not realise, Boris Johnson is the current Mayor of London) now appearing all around the city. Register to use these at Transport for London’s site for cyclists. Unfortunately it’s taking a bit longer than expected for casual users to be accommodated by the system, but this should be sorted out before the end of 2010.

Barclays bike hire scheme, London

A docking station for London's bike hire scheme

In a nutshell, there are over 6000 bikes and 400 docking stations. The bikes are pretty heavy at 23kg, but they’re safe, stable and easy to ride, if a little tricky to un- and re-dock. There’s no lock, the idea being when they’re not being ridden, they’re available for others – and they’ve proven incredibly popular with tens of thousands already registered to use them. Once you’ve paid your access fee and got your fob, short trips of less than 30 minutes are free – but you do need to make sure you’re safely re-docked within half an hour to avoid being charged.

Interestingly in this otherwise health and safety-obsessed country, helmets aren’t compulsory but as traffic in the central city now moves more slowly than it did at the start of the 20th century, you should be pretty safe. London’s no place for the meek – cycle like you deserve a place in the lane, make yourself big (think goalkeeper facing down a penalty shot), watch out for parked car doors, bendy buses, white vans and trucks of all colours. Pass big things on the right and try and get to the front of the lane at traffic lights to get a jump on the traffic and take advantage of that special bit of paint on the road just for you. There are loads of cycle lanes too, just be aware that you share these with buses, taxis and scooters – so don’t feel too special, or relaxed.

It is illegal to run red lights, act like a pedestrian (ie, ride on the footpath, cross when pedestrians do) and generally break traffic rules – but my mantra’s “arrive alive”, so do what you need to to keep safe. And enjoy yourself – London’s no Amsterdam, but it’s a lot more cycle friendly than it used to be and will only get better with the thousands of converts this scheme will attract.

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