As part of a health kick this year I have been getting out on my bike a couple of times a week. This has been around the relatively quiet roads and cycleways of the place I live on the outskirts of Reading. However, one day a week I go to the office in central London which involves a short tube journey from Paddington to Farringdon followed by a short walk to the office. On the walk I pass a docking station for Boris’ bikes (not sure why Boris has got the acclaim for them as I am pretty sure that they were an initiative of his predecessor Ken) and have often been tempted to give them a go. Yesterday I finally did.
To use the bikes you pay both an access fee and a timed charge, although the first 30 minutes are free. In theory the journey from Farringdon to Paddington is three miles and therefore should take under the thirty minutes meaning that I can use the bike for only the £2 access fee. So I had my helmet and my membership key and so I was ready to go.
My biggest concern with using the bikes was that I might get lost – travelling underground means that you have no idea where anything is or even which direction you are travelling in. To get round this I used the satnav on my phone which headphones so that it could bark instructions to me. Here came my first problem – the satnav had difficult locking onto a satellite and so got confused and sent me round in circles. After half an hour I found myself pretty much back where I started from.
During this time I had also discovered that the bike had a mind of its own when it came to the gears (of which there are three). I would be in one gear when the bike would decide to just dump me into another gear that it felt like using. Suddenly I would find that my feet were spinning round at far too many RPMs and I would have to readjust both my feet and the gears.
Next issue is that London is a busy city, it is everyman for himself on the roads and taxi drivers in particular don’t seem to give a shit about cyclists. So when I found myself on Oxford Street with nothing but busses and taxi drivers I feared for my life. As it happened I was more in danger of being knocked off by inattentive tourists who simply step out into the road. One slight advantage of travelling down Oxford Street is that it is wide and relatively quieter as there aren’t any cars, it’s a moot point though. The disadvantage is that your right in amongst the fumes which somewhat negates the health benefits of being on the bike in the first place.
I arrived at Paddington somewhat later that I had planned having done an extra mile trying to orientate myself. It was then that I came upon my final problem which was that there wasn’t a docking station free. Now I had read up on this and seen that in this instance you can simply goto the control point and it will tell you where the nearest free docking station is and also add 15 minutes to your free time to allow you to get there. Problem was, again, I couldn’t work out where I was and which way I need to go to get to the docking station wasting yet another five minutes.
By the time that I sat down on the train I was hot, bothered and had “helmet hair” but also had the smug satisfaction that I had at least made it in one piece and got some exercise to boot. I will try again next week but this time will try and memorise the route!