I know this blog was intended as my training diary for my LEJOG ride but as I’ve been on my soapbox this week about the transport strategy reports, both of which promise investigating a bike share scheme, I thought I’d put my money where my mouth is (or pedals where my feet are?) and give the most (in)famous one of them all a whirl.
I’d read that one of the biggest grumbles people had when they were first introduced was the distribution of bikes, as people head from stations into the city in the morning and back again in the evening, but I had no problem finding a rack full of pushangs close by London Bridge station just before 10:00. It’s all very easy to get started – stick your credit card in the machine, select a 24 hour hire for £2, print out your release code and pick your bike. Hey presto, free cycling for 30 minutes at a time! Top tip I read is check the rear wheel spins freely before you select your bike, and I noticed that a few had their saddles turned backwards which is apparently the code by which regular users indicate a defective bike. Healthy steed selected, I headed off into the City.
Although quite heavy, it was surprisingly comfy and light to steer, and the 3 gears were plenty adequate to pootle along at the traffic speed of 10mph. They’re pretty rugged, but did clunk over the pot holes a bit – bloody hell though, I’ll never grumble about the state of the roads in Guernsey again after navigating the craters around Bishopsgate! I’m actually quite ashamed that I’ve never used them before but, as I’ve always tended to be in London suited and booted with others for meetings etc, I normally cab/tube/bus about but even so I managed to cycle around in my suit without getting a drop of oil or grease on my trouser leg (or too sweaty).
Would they work in Guernsey? I’d love to think they would, but I do rather wonder where. Central London is pretty flat, and I certainly wouldn’t like to ride one of them up St Julian’s Avenue or the Val des Terres (let alone Mont Ventoux), so does that mean they’d only be good for the coast road? Would there be enough demand from commuters and shoppers between the bridge and town, especially if competing with a free bus service? Is there enough daytime footfall between town and Admiral Park to justify such a scheme? Typically pricing schemes favour short journeys of less than 30 minutes, so would they appeal to tourists wanting a bike for a few days whilst on holiday?
Truthfully I doubt it. I think the reason they work so well in cities is that so many people travel such long distances by public transport just reach a station that is still remote enough from their office/where they want to shop/visit, and the traffic is so slow moving, that cycling the rest of the way is the most efficient method of getting there. Guernsey’s diminutive appeal would be the scheme’s Achilles heal – it’s just too damn small.