Cycle Hire Schemes: An Easy Way To Get Around Your City
Picture the scene; you’re strolling around in London, enjoying the scenery, when you suddenly realise you need to be moving a little bit quicker. You’re not going far, mind; only a few stops away on the Underground, or a short cab ride. But given that the cash fare for a single Tube journey within Zone 1 is currently £4, and that London taxi meters seem to automatically start at around £5, neither of these are great options. You could sit in the choked central London traffic on a bus, but that’s likely to make you even later. What to do?
The answer, of course, lies with the Barclays Cycle Hire scheme. The bicycles, which number around 6,000, are rented from over 400 docking stations dotted across central London (with an expansion into east London only months away), and are known by locals as ‘Boris Bikes’, after Mayor of London Boris Johnson, who launched the scheme. After paying a daily access fee of £1, the first 30 minutes of bike use are free, and the price escalates as time wears on.
It’s been credited with making London a much easier city to navigate, and as the scheme’s coverage area is restricted primarily to central London, the main benefactors of the initiatives are tourists travelling around from their cheap hotels to the many attractions that the capital’s central area has to offer. Cycle hire schemes are a great way to see the city you’re visiting; there’s nothing like travelling around and discovering how it all fits together, as opposed to spending most of your visit crammed into an underground train. Other cities have also adopted cycle hire schemes to better facilitate travel for tourists and locals.
Paris and its Vélib’ scheme
One of the key inspirations for the Boris Bikes initiative is the Vélib’ scheme in Paris, launched in 2007. The system launched with 7,000 bicycles across 750 rental stations, but has steadily expanded around the city to encompass around 18,000 bicycles and 1,200 docking points. Parisians have fallen in love with the Vélib’, and there are even a number of cycling games such as geo-caching that people play by using them. (The word Vélib’ by the way is a combination of velo (bicycle) and liberté (freedom). One immediate advantage the Vélib has over the Boris Bikes is the presence of a basket, which is useful for carrying purses, backpacks, and shopping bags. The Boris Bike has a ‘magazine rack’ style storage space, but it’s not as useful as the Vélib’ basket, which is used by 90% of Parisians. It all contributes to the easy and convenient service that the Vélib’ provides, helping locals and tourists navigate the city from their Paris hotels and see more of the great City of Lights as they ride.
Montreal and its BIXI scheme
The largest cycle hire scheme in North America, BIXI was launched in Montreal, Canada in May 2009, with around 3,000 bicycles and 300 docking stations dotted around the city’s downtown area. Having now expanded to a scheme of 5,000 bicycles and 400 stations around the city, the BIXI scheme reached one million journeys within the first six months of operation, and has helped to make Montreal an easier city to navigate for the many tourists visiting the area on cheap hotel deals.