Train strikes: why not try the bike

16 December 2022

As another day of strikes causes more people to look for alternative ways to get around, I wanted to share some thoughts on an increasingly popular option – the bike.

I have been cycling around London for nearly 40 years. Had the luxury of places to park bikes indoors and workplaces with bike (car) parks and showers. Shorter distances in London you can cover on foot, bus, tube or train – even the odd river boat, so a luxury of choice. So, very little need to ever hire bikes or scooters.

However, I recently started hiring for a variety of reasons. Very interesting and some issues emerge which might shape this form of transport.

My son and I went to Portsmouth not long ago to visit HMS Victory – he is studying history. Arrived hungry and wanted to get to fish and chips fast down on the waterfront. Lots of electric scooters outside the station and a few docking bikes. Don’t like docking bikes as you have to faff working out where can park so went for the chunky looking Voi scooters. Twenty minutes later had downloaded the app and uploaded details. Rent one scooter but find my son, aged 17, cannot as doesn’t have a driving licence. Odd, he can rent a bike but not a scooter. You can see why you often see two people on a scooter apart from the saved money.

30 seconds into the ride tried to go through the Gunwharf Quays shopping centre. The tracking device cuts off the scooter. So, had the humiliation of both pushing the scooter and paying for it. Got going again and hit cobbled streets so more pushing. Finally made some progress and having arrived at the café, tried to park. Only place allowed to park about 20 minutes away. So, an hour lost for 20-minute walk! If this is the answer to our transport needs what is the question? Local authorities need to decide if they want to offer people choice or not.

The battle for road space will only hot up – see our recent report on the issue here. In London space for more pedestrians is becoming crucial. I recently walked through Covent Garden and Soho at around 4pm on a Friday. Heaving with tourists and Xmas shoppers. Everyone spills into the road. There is no space for cars which can do anything other than crawl. How are deliveries done? The only cars around seemed to be taxis, private hire and the odd huge expensive car that owners want to show off – they can afford to park I presume.

More successfully I’ve been using Lime bikes recently. Needed to get from home to Battersea Power Station in a hurry so finally plucked up courage, got app working, approached bike and checked tires and booked! Off we go!

A great experience. The electric pedal assist makes the journey effortless. The bikes are chunky and a bit wide but really good fun to ride. I grinned the whole way. The tech works and parking the bike OK. Used again more often. Boris bikes don’t reach our part of Zone 3 so these bikes, assuming parked up ok, are a real boon. The only downside? Cost – these private schemes are not subsidised. £1 unlocking fee and 21p per minute adds up fast. Also, you need to be brave enough to plunge into London’s traffic. But part of the future transport mix. Would be useful if you could use one app to do all these hire schemes.

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