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Theatremonkey on a Bike?

August 4, 2010

While it is now possible to keep the website running on a day to day basis by checking details online and via the odd email and phone call, it’s also often necessary to spend the odd morning wandering the streets of the West End and dropping by some of the major box offices. Apart from information gathering, that’s a chance for a good ‘catch up’ with many of the great people I’ve got to know, and also for the desk-bound writer to stretch a bit.

Yesterday, I noticed that the streets had gained an interesting new addition. The 30th July saw the launch of a bike rental scheme for London. Register online (or, from the end of the month, put your credit card in the machine by the bike rack) and you can borrow a hefty looking cycle to get you from rack A to rack B, hopefully near your destination.

The racks I passed were about 50/50 full of bikes and empty spaces. I’m guessing that the holes are deliberate to ensure a free docking point for arrivers… though I also know the scheme launched with fewer bikes than expected. Here’s the interesting bit, though. I walked about 5 miles that morning, passing 4 docking stations… and didn’t see anybody on a bike or using the station – beyond giving the shebang the same curious look-over I gave it.

As a life-long Londoner (and proud of it) I have two thoughts on the scheme. First, I don’t fancy tangling with the traffic or dodging the potholes on one of those heavy things – or any form of 2 wheeled transport, being honest. Second, the trip I made involved entering many buildings. Had I used a bike, where would I have stashed it? Can’t take it indoors, there’s no locks supplied and nothing to chain it to… and if you did, it’d be gone (as would £300 from your credit card security deposit) within seconds.

No doubt a few hairy and brave friends of the earth will enjoy the scheme (at least when it’s dry – what happens in winter?) and think they’ve saved a bit of planet (the bikes are serviced by petrol vans driving round and round, do the math). I think I’ll stick to a sturdy pair of walking shoes and an internal map of backstreet short cuts, thanks.

Only two further observations on my trip: 1) They still have not fixed the pavement on one side of Waterloo Bridge, and it’s annoying that you can’t change side without going down to Embankment and back up. 2) Plenty of tourists around in London. Great, welcome! And for the battalions on the Jubilee Bridge, taking photos of the London Eye Wheel… if you think that is impressive, wait till you see the hamster. (Thanks Ken Dodd for that one.)

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