First of all you have to put in your credit card to see if you already have an access permit. You don’t. So you have to put in your credit card again to purchase one. Great, all done and paid for. Now can I get my bike? Nope, you have to put in your credit card a third time to obtain your release code. It is easy once the system is explained but the user terminal makes this far from obvious and so I ended up on the phone to Customer Services.
The next day I start the procedure all over again, only to find that I still have twenty minutes of the previous day’s pass available which is not enough to get me to my destination. And there is a £150 late fee to be paid if I do not make it in time. Yikes! The user terminal does not allow me to cancel the previous day’s pass and so I am on the phone to Customer Services again. Pah!
I have to say Customer Services were very helpful and did sort out my problems, but they also added precious time on to my commute. However once those niggles were resolved, the rest was really good fun… and cheap at only £1 per day.
The bikes are solidly built (if a little heavy) and this gives you the strange feeling of being robust against the busy London traffic. They handle surprisingly well. Whilst they only have three gears, that is all you need in the flat urban city. I did find the brakes a bit on the weedy side but I soon learnt to adjust my stopping distance.
Cycling in London does take a bit of nerve. The cars, vans, lorries, other bicycles and pedestrians are all “opportunistic”. If they see a gap, whether legal or not, they will go for it! This is a bit alarming at first but you adapt. You soon wake up to the world and start anticipating other people’s actions.
I found it really useful to have done my route preparation beforehand. The hire scheme’s own website has a good link which allows you to plan your route according to the level of traffic you want to encounter (cyclejourneyplanner.tfl.gov.uk). It would be handy even when taking your own bike up to London.
So let’s go back to that scenario. You are cycling through the London streets, enjoying the sunshine on your face, the air in your lungs and taking in the sights. It is a great way to piece bits of the city together. The areas of London that exist between the tube stations that you do not normally see.
You can start to imagine you are somewhere else. Maybe you are Oliver Twist in Dickensian London or an A-List celeb parading around Knightsbridge. My favourite was to make believe I was in Italy, on a Vespa cruising around Rome, checking out people in the cafes. Bellissimo!
Ciao, Donna x