Image from londoncyclist
Today is the big day: London's new bicycle rental system is being launched. Called Barclays Cycle Hire, after the bank which is a corporate sponsor to the tune of £25M, the system is high in Canadian content.
Modelled after Montreal's Bixi, the 6,000 bicycles have been built at Devinci Cycles in Batgotville Quebec. Many have bemoaned the fact that they are not British-made, but as a result of Montreal's experiences, these cycles are built to last.
Image from tfl
In fact they are built like two-wheeled tanks: they weigh 23 kg. (50 lb.) so that they can't be vandalized easily. They have three gears so serious riders will pass them by with disdain. As the London transport adviser said " It's not the sexiest bike in the world, but it does have a certain elegance."
The bicycles have been specially modified for the London user with 43 changes from the Montreal cycles. The lights stay on for 2 minutes after pedalling stops. This means that they are illuminated for the length of the traffic light. There are better mudguards because of the rainy weather. The baskets are smaller on the front handles so that joy-riders are not encouraged. However, not much can be carried in them.
For tourists there will be a sign on the handlebars warning people not to pass on the left. There will be no locks except at the docking stations. That means if you run into a shop, you run the risk of the bike being gone when you return.
Image from flickr
The whole system will be coloured blue, which is Barclays colour. Some say it also represents the Conservative government's influence ( the Mayor is a Tory) but that's denied. However with such a cumbersome name what the affectionate moniker will become is going to be interesting. Velib (Paris) and Bixi (Montreal) slide off the tongue...in a way that Barclays Cycle Hire does not.
There will be 6,000 bicycles and 400 docking stations for hire, once the system is really up and running. For now, residents of London can sign up for a day, weekly, or yearly membership. So far 4,500 have already. Tourists are going to have to wait a little longer for the chance to ride one.