After my riverboat experience on Monday evening, today I went for a practice spin on a couple of Boris Bikes.
I have paid for annual access and, even though there were no usage fees today, I didn't keep either of my bikes for 30 minutes (which is when usage charges will usually kick in).
I picked up my first bike at the Harewood Avenue docking station outside Marylebone station. There were three members of staff on hand and they made a particular point of telling me that there were no usage fees today.
My first trip was up Harewood Avenue, down Lisson Grove, across the Marylebone Road, along through Marylebone and East into Fitzrovia. After entering a wormhole of infinite circling one-way streets I eventually docked the bike at Foley Street before walking down into Soho.
Result? I am still not entirely sure that I have a sensible route planned all the way to work.
Coming back was much better - I picked up my second bike in Soho Square, walked it up to Rathbone Place and then cycled all the way back to Harewood Avenue in 15 minutes, including a slight wrong turn down some narrow streets (I was trying to avoid main roads).
One family exclaimed "Wow! Look!" as I passed them on the inward journey, while someone else commented "Cool Motor!" to me as I passed. All a bit strange really.
Now I will be the first to admit that I am slightly overweight. Nick Ferrari might call me fat. The Boris Bikes are not lightweight racing machines - they are designed to be functional, hard wearing and vandal-proof. This means that they take a bit of effort to use and they will definitely be useful as part of a calorie controlled diet.
I am thinking that my colleagues might not appreciate me using the Barclays Cycle Hire Scheme to get to work each day, if you get my drift.
The tfl website has a brilliant map showing all the docking stations. It includes live details of how many bikes are available at each docking station and how many empty spaces are available.
Generally most working docking stations seem to have bikes and spaces available. The exception is that at present the docking station in Soho shows that there are 37 cycles available and no spaces. It might be interesting to see how that changes as time goes by. Managing flows and demand will probably be one of the biggest challenges facing the operators of the scheme.