For a different way to get around London (or just Hyde Park) rent a Boris Bike for half an hour or a day and cruise off into the crisp sunset.
They’re not really called Boris Bikes, but Barclays Cycles – after the bank who coughed up £25 million for the naming rights. But Boris Johnson, former mayor of London whom most credit for bringing them in, even though it was mooted under previous mayor Ken Livingstone’s reign.
We walked from our little luxury Ampersand Hotel in South Kensington (read my blog review here >>>) to the bike station nearest to Hyde Park. There was no way I wanted to rent one that might involve cycling on London’s crowded streets and find myself sandwiched between a double-decker bus and a black cab. Helmets are not provided, nor required.
But alas figuring out the payment machine to release the bike was a tad more complicated than it needed to be. Fortunately a local soon came and whipped one out, stopping to help us before she rode off into the busy distance.
There are over 8000 Boris bikes dotted all over London and during the Olympics on one day alone over 47,000 hires were made. But the £140m investing is not making money yet as most people get their bikes back in under and hour – or be sneaky and dock their bike every half hour to avoid charges and take it out again. If you don’t return it at all you’ll be charged £300 for the heavy (23kg) bike with the big mudflaps, big seat and 3 speeds.
So here’s what you do:
Insert your credit card into the machine and register to rent a bike. It’ll cost £1 per bike for 24 hours and you are now validated. (You can also register and get sent a little key in the mail to use on a more permanent basis if London is your nesting place). Then your card is spat out, but you have not rented your bike. Reinsert your card and now press the yes keys to rent it. It’s free if you take it for under 30 minutes, £1 for an hour, £4 for an hour and a half, £6 for 2 hours, and up it goes. You get charged once the bike is returned at any one of the 570 docking stations.
Then once you have agreed to the terms and conditions, a ticket is printed with your access code and you have 10 minutes to punch that into the machine that the bike you choose is locked into. So far so good. But pulling the jolly thing out of its stand was ridiculously hard. It took both of us pulling and several attempts with the code which cancels after about 5 seconds. Finally we were out and underway, tootling through Hyde Park to Kensington Palace, past the Serpentine stopping to stare at swans and realising that most of the paths through the park are closed to bikes!