August 3, 2010 at 7:24 am #73743
I work near Goodge Street Station on TCR; I had to go to the Apple Store at Regents Street in lunchtime and to a pubmeet on Victoria Street after work. I thought I’d see if the Boris Bikes could help:
At lunchtime a quick look at the London Cycle App (http://twitter.com/LondonCycleApp/) told me the cycle rack opposite the Apple store would be full; and frankly I still can’t work out the one-way system around Cleveland Street, so I figured I’d walk that bit.
Coming back; picked up a bike opposite the Apple store (finally managed to wrestle the second one I’d picked out of the stand, first one would not shift) and rode that back to Scala Street.
First thoughts on the bike; gears (once I’d found the shift) were terrible; couldn’t get it back out of third. Bike seemed to steer like a whale, particularly when trying to signal to turn (apparently I usually steer with my knees when I do that, impossible to do with no crossbar on the bike). Docked and printed a receipt, just to ensure it’d received the bike properly.
After work; tried Scala Street again and it was empty (except for one bored-looking member of TfL staff). In fact the London Cycle App suggested that a lot of stations were at that point – somewhat surprising considering the system’s in nothing like full usage. Had to walk down to Soho Square where I could pick up a bike. Remembered to reset the saddle height after about 2 yards. Rode down through Soho, down Charing Cross Road, through Admiralty Arch and around the end of Green Park. The cobbles on Storey’s Gate were an interesting experience, but with a bit of practice I felt like the bike was handling better in traffic. The gears on this one worked better too, although I was wishing it had a higher one. Docked at Abbey Orchard Street (once I’d found the station hidden around the corner from the main road) and asked again for a printout; got a “Sorry Dave, I can’t do that” message.
After the pubmeet (suitably moderated alcohol consumption of course, but it was pleasant to have arrived by bike and not have to worry about someone nicking or vandalising it) I picked up another bike at Abbey Orchard and rode through Parliament Square to Concert Hall Approach near Waterloo. Riding across the river at night was really quite pleasant, and a very quick journey. Luckily there were two spaces left at the last stop, although the station again failed to print a journey log (despite claiming it had).
- The bikes are a bit unwieldy, but fine once you get used to them
- The gears are a bit temperamental; if you ease right off to change down they usually work
- The stations are already surprisingly / inconveniently full / empty – this could be a right nuisance once usage increases
- The stations tend to be a bit well hidden and too far apart
- The printers are flaky at best
- Despite all the issues, the system’s useful, particularly for journeys that are very indirect by tubeAugust 3, 2010 at 7:41 am #75381
“The gears are a bit temperamental; if you ease right off to change down
they usually work.”
They are hub gears: you MUST either stop pedalling or soft pedal for them to engage.August 3, 2010 at 7:55 am #75382
Thanks Picklehead – never ridden hub-gear before, so not used to how they work. Very different experience from riding my hybrid/MTB.August 3, 2010 at 9:28 am #75383
I’m sure everyone will get the hang of it, eventually – but it may do some serious damage to the hubs in the meantime! Many modern hub gears are better and it only takes a fraction of freewheeling for disengagement and rengagement to occur. My Shimano Alfine 8 speed hub is very good, but I also own a Pashley 5 speed which has a very clonky gear change.
I’ve also noticed that there is a definite tidal movement amongst the bikes which is leaving some full and some empty. Some tweaks on the station sites will definitely be required: more needed in SW1, particularly around Westminster/Whitehall.August 3, 2010 at 11:38 am #75384
There’s a definite tidal movement from Kennington Post Office in the morning and back in the evening. I imagine South London commuters are using the Northern Line to Oval and then walking to this point to complete their journeys and escaping a cross zone Tube fare charge on Oyster Pay As You Go. If the Paris experience is anything to go by I imagine lots more docking points will be appearing at some stations as well as new stations too.August 3, 2010 at 12:10 pm #75385
If my experience close to Vauxhall station yesterday was anything to go by, you’re right.
At 7am yesterday (and 7.30 today) the point at Vauxhall Cross was half full, presumably due to commuters getting off at Vauxhall (Zone 2) and cycling in to to the city. When I tried to drop off my cycle at around 7:30pm last night Vauxhall Cross and Kennington Road were both full, and there was one single slot left on the north side of the bridge.
In the future I’ll have to get tactical and deliberately leave it short somewhere, then walk to Vauxhall… (August 3, 2010 at 12:46 pm #75386
I did look at the number of docking stations and points around Vauxhall and was surprised at how low it was considering what a big bus, rail and tube interchange it is!
Did you try the docking station at Vauxhall in the pedestrian tunnel that runs under the railway bridge? I’ve not had a problem there *yet*.August 3, 2010 at 12:48 pm #75387
It was full at the time (it was on the list provided by the screen, but said there were 0 slots available).August 3, 2010 at 12:54 pm #75388
Totally agree that capacity is a problem at Vauxhall. There’s a definite need for more docks and bikes. It’s looking like game-over if you need a bike much after 8am
Based on my first few days of use (Vauxhall Cross):
- Friday @8:15am 1 x bike avail
- Monday @8:00am 2 x bikes
- Tuesday @ 8:15am 0 bikes
Seems like there’s always loads avail north of the bridge (at any time of day), but that leaves insufficient spaces for ‘returners’ to dock later-on.
I’ve only tried to re-dock at Vauxhall Cross on an evening once so far (Friday) and there were 3 spaces. Worrying to hear that its filling-up by 7:30pm.
Problem is compounded by the Albert Embankment docs still being out of action I suspect.August 3, 2010 at 1:18 pm #75389
Albert Embankment seems to be up and running despite what the website map has been saying in the last few days. I’ve seen people dropping off and collecting bikes from there, but you never know for sure if it’s really working!
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