London Bike Share: An American’s Guide,

published at 3:04pm on 04/22/12

Enjoy London by bike share, even as an American. Even with one of your silly swipe credit cards.

I love exploring a city by bike. Any city worth its grid will have a public transit system, but in order to really get a sense of the street life, the pace of the city, and the scale, a bike is the only way to get from place to place. The magic of an underground system is great, but you miss out on everything you can see when you go from point A to Z. And walking just takes too damn long.

Trying out my first London bike share! #bikelondon

The last time I was in London, I was pleased to learn that the bike share program had finally implemented a “Casual Use” plan, which allows you to use the bikes on a day-to-day basis without purchasing a membership (which requires UK residency). I was even more excited to see that the machines support American-style swipe credit cards as well as the chip and pin cards that are common in Europe.

Despite the cold January day, I decided to embark on this adventure to see how hard it was going to be for an American to actually use the Boris Bikes in a casual hire capacity. As it turns out, it’s pretty straight forward, with a couple of caveats.

The onscreen instructions walk you through every step of the hire process, but here are the things to note, both about the hiring process and the bikes themselves:

That’s it. Especially as the weather starts warming up, I highly recommend that anyone visiting London take full advantage of the bike share system. It really is a wonderful way to get around town.

Filed under: Observations

At 7:13 pm on 04.22.12, Michael Stillwell said,

The “Casual Use” system is two or three times as complicated as it should be but at least it works… The easiest way to get a bike out of the dock is to lift the seat up about a foot vertically, and then let go. The bike just pops out as it bounces. (Saw the maintenance/relocation guys get the bikes out this way.)

At 9:48 pm on 04.22.12, Jesse Chan-Norris said,

Thanks for the tip, Michael!

At 1:53 am on 07.06.12, elizabeth said,

Thank you so much for this post! I’m going to be in London for a long layover next month and am already planning a route for the sites I’d like to see. After security and traveling to/from the airport, I only have a few hours to explore, so walking might not cut it. After reading several reviews of the bikes, your tips are the most informative and invaluable, and I will definitely be giving the bikes a try. Thanks again!

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