Get pedalling around London with the Barclays Cycle Scheme
For those of you who have been envious of Parisians whizzing around on their 'velibs' for the last few years the wait is over. London now has its very own fleet of 6000 bikes for hire from 400 docking stations around the capital.
The benefit of this scheme to Londoners and tourists is huge. Cycling around the city is the perfect way to see the sights, stumble across hidden gems, enjoy some fresh air and get from a to b in a healthy, environmental and stress free fashion. And with miles and miles of cycle paths through parks and along waterways, cycling in London isn't as traffic heavy as most believe. The scheme makes cycling simple and accessible for all, removing any of the hassles associated with keeping your bike safe and getting it home at the end of the day or night. It has also encouraged a massive push to improve bike paths in the city, which are now found throughout the capital, clearly marked and signposted in blue or green.
The scheme is predominantly available in zone 1 but there is hint that this may expand if it proves to be successful. Obviously once you have your bike you can cycle as far as you like for up to 24 hours but it is much more cost effective to use the bikes in the centre of the city (see pricing info below). The docking points where you can pick up or drop off a bike are approximately every 300m from Kensington Olympia in the West, to Kennington in the South, to Primrose Hill in the North and Whitechapel in the East.
There are heaps of resources online to get you excited about cycling in the capital and Greentraveller will be regularly posting new cycling routes. TFL will happily post you free cycling maps around the capital or you can pick them up from most visitor centres or train stations. To give you an idea of the efficiency of getting on a bike it takes only 10 minutes to cycle the entire length of Hyde Park. The Thames Path from Teddington all the way to Greenwich provides some breathtaking traffic-free sight seeing by bike. At the weekend why not pedal between some of London's finest food and fashion markets; there are cycle paths linking Camden to Spitalfields and Brick Lane to Borough Market. Or if history and parks is more your thing you can start in Westminster to take in the Houses of Parliament, cycle through St James' Park up The Mall, past Buckingham Palace, through Green Park and up to The Serpentine Lake in Hyde Park. Battersea Park, Chelsea Embankment, Regent’s Park and North London's canals are all very relaxing and sociable pedalling spots if you want to catch up with friends or unwind.
Here's a quick intro on the practicalities of the scheme, which is so simple and easy that surely no one can resist!
How much does it cost and how do I get involved?
For those who live in London or are regular visitors you can become a member, which is the only way to access the bikes until September. You can register online at tfl.gov.uk/barclayscyclehire. This costs £45 a year for 24/7 access. Included in this fee is an access key for immediate unlocking of a bike in any docking station (one off £3 cost additional), 3 additional keys for friends, family or visitors and an online account to manage payment. Once you've paid your £45 and got your key any journey under 30 minutes will be free. For an hour's cycle its £1 rising up to £50 for 24 hour use of a bike, which is the maximum time you can have one. If you are going to be cycling for more than 30 minutes the best thing is to dock your bike in every 30 minutes and take a new one out, this way you can cycle indefinitely for free!
For visitors from September you will be able to buy access to the bikes as an occasional/ casual user. You can make this payment at any of the docking stations or online at tfl.gov.uk/barclayscyclehire. A day's access will cost £1 and a week's will be £5. Once you've paid the journey costs are the same as above, so once again, if you cycle for no longer than 30 minutes on each trip use of the bikes are free. When you pay for access you will be given an access code which will unlock the bikes.
How does it work in practice?
Approach a docking point which has no lights illuminated
Insert your membership key into the docking point key slot
Amber light will illuminate while your account is being verified
Green light: undock your cycle and set off
Redock the cycle at any docking station at the end of your journey and ensure that the docking point lights turn green
For occasional/ casual users:
Purchase your access fee online or at the docking station terminal
Go to the docking station of your choice and follow the instructions on the terminal screen
You will be issued with a 5 digit cycle release code
Enter this code on to the pad on a docking point where no light is illuninated to release the cycle
Amber light will illuminate when the code is being verified
Green light: undock your cycle and set off
Redock the cycle at the end of your journey and ensure that the light turns green
And for those of you with some concerns...
If your nearest docking station is full then the terminal will direct you to the nearest one (they are every 300m so this should never be too much trouble). If this means you will go over your 30 minutes you will automatically gain an extra 15 minutes to get your bike to another docking station. Given that there are 10200 docking places for 6000 bikes this scenario shouldn't be a common one.
The bikes will be constantly repaired and redistributed by staff. If your bike breaks down in any way you can return it to the nearest docking station and press the fault button to alert staff to it.
- For those a bit nervous about taking a bike out in London then Transport for London are running training schemes given by qualified National Standards instructors. You can find your nearest training scheme at tfl.gov.uk/cycletraining
Why not get the app?
London Cycle: Maps and Routes is an app made for any i-device that directs people to and from the cycle docking stations around London. It is currently free to download onto an i-phone, i-pad or i-pod touch and is hopefully coming to Android and Blackberry devices soon.