Boris Bikes – The Beauty of the Beast

As the Boris Bike approaches its 3rd birthday we take a loving look back at the past 36 months and find the beauty in the Barclays Cycle Hire’s beastly blue bicycles.

With all the hype surrounding this month’s launch of New York’s Citi Bike scheme – for which the endlessly dull “Mike’s Bikes” seems to be beating the far glitzier “Bloomy’s Bikes” in the official nickname stakes – I’ve become slightly nostalgic for the excitement that surrounded the launch London’s own “Boris Bike” cycle hire scheme back in 2010.

Boris Bikes in Docking Station

The Boris Bike Turns Three

It’s almost hard to believe that next month will mark the third anniversary of the blue bicycles first appearance on the streets of London. But then time does fly when you’re stood on a street corner fruitlessly jabbing your index finger at a touch screen.

Maybe that’s a little unfair.

Because despite the seeming need for non-key holders to press the docking station’s “Hire” button two dozen times before it registers a “hit”, on the whole, the scheme has proven a great success. With one million rides being completed in its first 10 weeks and the scheme now having racked up more than 20 million trips, it’s hard to argue otherwise.

That’s not to say it’s been all plain sailing for the Barclays Cycle Hire scheme.

Just as its New York equivalent has experienced, the scheme suffered a few teething troubles in it early days – software errors and too few docking points, to name but two. And it still continues to face criticism, in particular of late Serco’s redistribution of the bikes at peak times and the poor state of repair of many of the machines.

But that’s not caused us to turn our backs on the bikes.

Beauty Is In The Eye of The Bicycler

The bikes themselves are far from the prettiest – OK, they’re down right ugly beasts. They weigh about the same as that cab you decided not to take which, combined with fat tyres & low-gearing, makes them a little ponderous to ride.

One could argue, in fact, that the Boris Bike is to a bespoke city bike what the VW Camper Van is to a Bentley Continental.

But that’s missing the point by a country mile because, for all their faults, they’re perfect for the job they do.

And it’s that “job” which is by far the greatest achievement of the scheme – getting people out and about on two-wheels, cycling through London.

Boris Bikes encapsulate the “get on a ride” ethos to cycling that we so love. No lycra nor special shoes are required. No aerodynamic helmets nor energy gels.

Wherever you are, whatever you’re wearing – just pay your money and you’re off. Which is something a staggering 47,105 of us did on the final day of the 2012 London Olympics.

And that, that’s the real beauty of the Boris Bike.