/ Travel & Leisure

Buy a bicycle or hire a Boris bike?

Like it or not, the Barclays cycle hire scheme is a huge success and is now a part of London’s transport system. With further expansions taking place, it’s time to ask whether there’s any point in buying a bike in London?

Dear Santa, don’t worry about getting me a bike for Christmas – Boris Johnson has already got 8,300 for me!

As someone who doesn’t drive and is loath to use the Tube on weekends, I’m a great fan of London’s cycle hire scheme.

But, like all good things, these bikes are getting popular. Very popular! So popular in fact, that my nearest stand will rarely have a free bike after midday on weekends. Rather than bikes, there’s usually a bevy of awkward loiterers waiting to pounce on the next person that comes in to dock.

With the recent expansion across an additional area of around 21km² (mostly in East London) an extra 2,300 bikes are now on London’s streets. This takes the total number to 8,300.

So now comes the burning question: is it better to buy a bike or to just use one of Boris’?

The advantages of using a Boris bike:

  • They’re cheap, fun and very effective for short trips when you don’t want to leave a bike somewhere or have to ride it home.
  • Buying your own bike can be expensive and it can take time to find the right one.
  • If I bought a bike and it was stolen, I’d be devastated! For £1, so long as I dock every half hour, I can have 24 hours of adventure on the weekend and save money on transport.

The advantages of owning a bike:

  • For a start, I wouldn’t have those awkward loitering moments at Barclays stands waiting for a bike!
  • I could also go wherever and whenever I wanted without the restrictions that are associated with a 20kg Boris bike.
  • Then there’s the aesthetic style of owning your own bike, where you don’t just look like another cog in the bicycle hire chain.

As for me, when I’m on one of Boris’ bikes and the system is working, I love it! And as they continue to expand further into wider London, I can’t help but think I’ll never own a bike again. So, if a cycle hire scheme came to a place near you, would you ditch your very own bike?

Would you prefer to buy your own bike or use a cycle hire scheme?

I’d like to ride my own bike (39%, 77 Votes)

Neither - I’d prefer to use other forms of transport (30%, 58 Votes)

I’m happy to use either depending on which is convenient (24%, 48 Votes)

I’d like to use a cycle hire scheme, like London’s Boris bikes (7%, 14 Votes)

Total Voters: 198

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Sorry – I live in London and would not ride any form of bicycle in local London traffic. In rural areas of Essex I happily use my old bicycle,

I agree. The thought of cycling on London’s roads is terrifying.

The scheme sounds OK if everything goes well, but what if it doesn’t? The instructions say, when you return the bike, dock it and wait for the green light. What do you do if the light fails? What about if the bike is stolen? The T&Cs say you will be charged £300. At least if it’s your own bike, you can insure it. But these hired bikes are not insured, so if I hired one I would be very nervous in case it gets stolen.

Believe there’s a recurring annual charge of £49 for which
sum often less, one is able to buy a fairly-decent used bike
and own outright, at car boot sale, local ads OR an auction.

Bicycle maintenance is a piece of cake once you know how
and that can easily be acquired, and using a good-quality U-lock
or suchlike bicycle theft is entirely preventable.

Regular all-weather OR serious cyclists almost w/out exception own
their own bikes whether for commuting, utility or recreational
purposes. Ask Boris himself.

Wd not ride that heavy, bulky and slow contraption called
the Boris that’s for occasional and short-journey use when
in/around Central London and extended area, nothing more.

A lighter bike is so much faster and a greater pleasure to use
and, of course, also ideal for touring purposes, whether long-distance
or otherwise.

The stands close to and both behind and opposite the Royal Courts of
Justice at the Strand nr Temple tube that I get to see are very frequently
full of UNhired bikes that I wd have expected more, far more numbers
to have been hired out during daytime or normal business/office
hours Monday to Friday (Weekend hire is even less in that
business district).

Scheme may have a qualified success in parts of London but unsure as to it being
a commercial success (yet?) in terms of profits made which is doubtful and excluding
the element of contribution made by Barclays that is far too low, may well have been
running at a loss for all I know.

And another bad thing abt those heavy and slow bikes to say nothing of gearing
: lack of load-carrying capacity or provision, space in front for a mere ladies’
handbag is not quite enough and carrying a rucksack on one’s back is not a practical
option in all cases, whether male or female.

I cannot understand why this is successful since the charges are steep (e.g. £6 for up to 2 hours) unless you return the bike within 30 minutes. It’s like some sort of a game.

I think it’s pretty cheap personally – if you consider the cost of the Tube and the fact that most London workers only need to take it for a short journey. If you’re off for a leisurely cycle it’s going to cost a bit more, sure.

A leisurely cycle in London? A lot must have change since I last visited, about ten years ago.

Yes, of course – there are lots of nice cycle lanes. I can cycle to Greenwich and back on a Boris bike if I like, without much traffic at all. I could also ride along the Thames for a good hour or so…

I absolutely love the *idea* of Boris bikes, but in practice, I’m afraid I’ve not had much success with them.

A few months ago, I decided to try getting off my train a stop early and Boris-biking my way in to the office. I think the costs are very reasonable, but unfortunately, I struggled on each occasion to find a bike that was both available and fully functioning.

Just to make matters worse – when I rode back up to London Bridge on my way home, the nearest dock was full! I had to ride a few minutes down the road to another dock, which added another 10 minutes onto my walk back to the station. Sufficed to say, I missed my train connection.

On top of that – once I’d worked out how to free the bike (the instructions weren’t clear) and spent 5 minutes adjusting it for my height etc. I’d actually added a few precious minutes on to my commute.

I know I sound negative and I’d like to add – with the right support and a wider network, I think this is a brilliant idea and a step forward. But even my relatively short and simple journey was fraught with delays and nudged me towards buying my own bike.

Marbellys says:
8 May 2012

I have cycled in various European cities as well as South America, I also cycle where I live now in Dorset, and then I experienced cycling in London with a Boris bike. I tell you people if you think that cycling in London is dangerous you all need to cycle in Rome or Caracas and then re-asses your sense of danger. Cycling in London is relatively safe if you have your wits about you and it is no more dangerous than cycling in Dorset. I have near misses now where I live in not so cosmopolitan Dorset where drivers are less used to sharing crowded spaces (or roads).

Rodrigo Steed says:
10 May 2012

I do have my own ‘vintage’ bike but, since the launch of the Boris bikes in my area, Hackney, I have abandoned my beloved one. I think the scheme is just great. I spend 1 pound per day to get to most places as journeys in London, on a bike, won’t take longer than 30 minutes. No need to worry about finding a safe place to park without being haunted by getting your bike stolen, no need to worry about maintenance whilst enjoying some rather delightful journeys – hassle free – along regents canal, and many other cycling routes. The only bad think about the scheme is not to find an empty dock in certain areas such as in the City by 8.45am or on my way back home, in a more residential area, after 6.30pm. Otherwise, just perfect.

I’ve used Boris bikes for a year now- great for commuting from the station and getting around London. Not really a problem to find one, if you use the map of docking stations. Nice not to have to use the tube!

Duane Cleaver says:
8 August 2012

Started using Boris bikes this year. And love the ability to use them whenever. Yes there is problems sometimes, like one Sunday night had to go to four different docking stations before i could dock the bike on the Isle of Dogs.
I live in South London, and the nearest docking station is a fifteen minute walk from my flat to the Oval.
So when are they expanding in the South East/West area?

George Johnston says:
23 August 2012

I think the Boris Bikes are a great success and I use them regularly. They just need to be expanded ASAP!

Paul Franklin says:
28 September 2014

I used to drive to the station, park for the day, train into Marylebone and tube (sweaty) or bus (smelly and erratic) across to the City.
Then I bought a reasonably priced new folding bike.
Cycle to the station, fold, unfold at Marylebone and cycle to work, where I fold it and pop it in a cupboard!
After the initial shock of exercise and working out the best route (helped greatly by TFLs map of lesser-used and cycling friendly roads) I could actually get across London faster than either the tube or any bus route!
The cost of the bike was covered inside 5 months, since when I have been making a large daily saving of ££.
Plus I am slowly becoming healthier.
The Boris bike scheme is for very occasional use – get yourself a bike and feel the benefits!!