Boris Bikes: An Institution

Boris Bikes: An Institution

For anyone who has spent a significant portion of time in the city of London, you’ll be well-familiar with what has become colloquially known as the “Boris Bike.” Their use is an institution in the inner city now, accounting for more than seventy-three million journeys in the years since they were introduced. We are, in fact, barely a week removed from the ten-year anniversary of their introduction, so I thought it worth a look back at their inception and what good they’ve done for the city in the meantime.

Officially announced as the “Barclays Cycle Scheme” and later “Santander Cycles” after Santander’s take-over of the sponsorship of the scheme, no moniker has been able to oust “Boris Bike,” although the idea of a city-wide cycle scheme was first introduced by then-mayor Ken Livingstone. He instructed Transport for London (TFL) to examine and study similar schemes implemented in Lyon, Brussels, Vienna, Berlin, Munich, Oslo and Copenhagen. The team in charge then modelled their new system on Paris’ “Vélib'” network and, three years later, on the 30th of July 2010, the scheme was officially launched, to much fanfare and a positive response - a million journeys were recorded in the first ten weeks of operation.

For any long-time Londoners reading, you will remember life before Boris Bikes. Transport in a gargantuan, bustling city is always a hurdle to overcome but, if you were out and about and in need of a quick means of getting from A to B, your options previously were limited to walking, taking a cab or getting the tube. A packed tube on a hot, sticky August day in London is not where you want to be. Forget driving also, either in an extortionate black cab or, sitting in traffic, inching along in your own car (not to mention finding parking when you do get where you’re trying to go). The popularity of the bikes is apparent, measurable by how their number has grown since launch: The first instalment put 5000 bikes on the road, connected with 315 unmanned, electronically operated docking stations for simple storage and easy access. The number of bikes has almost tripled, since, to 13600 with 800 docking stations to store them all. The scheme has expanded outside of the very centre of London into Wandsworth, Hammersmith, Fulham, Lambeth, Chelsea and Brixton, to name but a few boroughs. Plans for further expansion are always in the works, making it easier and easier for people to pick a healthy, yet still convenient, way of getting about, without breaking the bank in the process.

Speaking of health, it bears mentioning the good that has been done for the people of London with the introduction of this scheme. A study has shown that cyclists on a Boris Bike are three times less likely to be injured while riding than regular cyclists. The reason why is uncertain (possibly the bright red livery?). Also, recent customer research has shown that 49% of people who used the scheme in London started cycling as a direct result of the presence of the bikes, for reasons already stated: they’re cheap (keep your trip under 30 minutes and you need only pay the £2 access fee to get going), convenient and help you stay healthy while getting about. It’s a win-win-win! Combine that with a bottle of Veloflow and you’ll be flying about the city, while everyone else suffocates with someone’s armpit in their face on the underground. An easy decision in my book!