I should be on Transport for London’s pay roll. Why? Because the times that I have helped people release bikes from Boris’ blue stands are innumerable. The people requiring assistance are mostly tourists, whom I often have little patience with. So what is it that makes their plight so important to me?
I love Boris bikes, but I’m the first to admit that there is nothing user friendly about them; I can’t stand the sight of people excitedly parting with their money only to get stuck trying to release a bike. The first stumbling block, of course, is conveying your credit or debit card details. This acts as a sort of deposit. If you’re American and don’t own a card with a chip in it, you’re stuck immediately. Even if you do have a chip in your card, the machine can take a disliking to it – my debit card falls into this category. If you’re lucky though, you’ll be issued with a bicycle release and then have a limited amount of time to grab a bike. Sounds easy doesn’t it? Well, the problem is that if a bike has a red light illuminated by it, it will NEVER be released, no matter how many times you correctly type in the code. Pushing in a pound coin where the membership key is supposed to go doesn’t help either. Since no one ever seems to grasp these things first time, this results in many an unaided tourist’s downfall.
If TfL were ever to recognise my services to Boris bikes, I would use it as an opportunity to air my views about buses. If I get on one of these splendid vehicles and it says it’s going to Battersea Bridge South Side, only to tell me two stops later that it’s changed its final destination to somewhere I could have easily walked to in half the amount of time, I get angry. This happens to me too frequently and I know the drill. You end up paying twice. There surely is an easy way around this, for instance they could issue you with a slip allowing you to get on the next bus for free. And provide free coffee for those poor people who tried the bus only after the bikes failed them…
So, should we bother dwindling our money on buses and bikes? In this ever-persistent rain, buses’ benefits surely outweigh their short fallings. But come the summer, whenever that may be, do try to get a Boris bike. If you’re successful: cycle through the park along the south of the Serpentine, west to east. Yes it is like the M25 at rush hour, but at other times it is one of the most scenic and best experiences TfL has to offer.