Boris is bringing cycling into the mainstream


Given that I always find myself encouraging people onto two wheels, my scepticism of a public London bike scheme felt slightly at odds. I loved the idea but really didn’t know what to expect, and if Boris was in charge felt sure it was destined to fail.

How wrong could I have been? Yeah there is plenty to criticise, with empty or full docking stations, terminals causing frustration all over the place, it’s centralised in the wealthiest of areas, and it is sponsored by Barclays. But one year on, lets see some positives, just look at how many people are learning to ride on Boris’? They’re the cheapest way to get around town (just £1 gives you 24hrs of access in 30minute windows, which is a bargain compared to a £4 tube single or £2.20 for a bus); can be used for one-way journeys when the weathers looking dodgy or you want to have a drink; you never have to fix a puncture or tighten up the brakes; and they really are a cracking London experience for tourists and visitors.

While I don’t want to be considered a fan of BoJo (and lets be clear, Ken started it), I sure am glad they’re not being called Barclays Bikes. It’s opened up city cycling to a whole new audience and I think for this single achievement, the posh boy done good. With 6000 bikes used by tourists, locals and commuters, cycling is becoming part of a mainstream. People even talk to each other at the docking stations, how often does that happen on the tube? The bikes are heavy and sturdy, but even if you’re a cycling pro drivers expect you to wobble out of control at any moment and have been forced to start paying attention.

Late last year stats came out that women weren’t taking up the challenge of BoBiking for fear of dangerous roads and not enough destinations with showers*. 75% of registered users were men, but looking around at traffic lights, I’m seeing lots of women on all kinds of bikes. My mums always been scared of her kids taking risks on the road and terrified of riding herself, but now she’s one of Boris biking’s biggest advocates. She and her friends can’t be the only converts. Comparable stats for this year aren’t out yet (and my empirical evidence doesn’t quite cut it) but Andrew Ross claims the hire bikes are not just a posh-boy toy. He points to cycle training courses who’s places are almost exclusively taken up by women and ethnic minorities rather than the white male cyclist stereotype.

London is by no means the cycling city of dreams – there’s a long way to go before everyone feels safe on a bike. It may not have the same political charge of an autonomous bike clinic or the extensive learning opportunities of places like the marvellous London Bike Kitchen (see Jen’s ace article below) but it was a radical move for London. Boris Bikes have got more people out on the road and that is making things safer for all of us, so let’s extend it to the whole of London and get everyone on a bike.

*Showers? Pah. If it really matters, then surely we need a culture of slower paced cycling like Scandinavia. It’s all about enjoying the journey, not getting your race on.Some links I’ve loved:

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