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Boris Turning Back Time Through Pedal Power

The London Cycle Scheme battles obesity, combats peak oil and may cause time travel. Are you a Pioneer, or a pedestrian?

Written by Amelia Wells

Victorian velocity, decease illustration by Jessica Rose Anne

So, viagra people in London have started cycling. How weird is that? Plenty of people have pointed out that cycling is the fastest form of transport which can solve both of Britain’s current crises; obesity and peak oil. You’re aware, of course, that we are all energy guzzling fatties and the only way we can be cured is through the power of the BIKE?! Two wheels good, four wheels bad. Sod the traffic and the ‘advisory’ cycle lanes; as Critical Mass proved, cyclists are taking to the streets and when they get out in force, cars have to MOVE OVER. Quite literally. The bikes might be a bit slow and only have three gears, but that’ll just help you to shift the puppy fat. A lot has been said about the awesome-osity of cycling and, alongside eating less meat, it is a move which could lead toward the saving of the world. Bikes are people-powered, just like the best revolutions, and the only contribution they make towards emissions are the heated words you might emit towards that bastard lorry driver. I’m lucky enough to live in an area where I can cycle in and out of town with minimal cycling on roads, and as soon as I get into Bristol, cycling capital of the U.K!, I can just chain my bike up and wander into the centre, barely having to navigate the dodgy traffic. London, however, is a helluva lot more dangerous for anyone not sitting inside a tonne of box-shaped steel and so this Cycle Scheme could really go both ways.

Boris, apparently, is all about getting one in five Londoners cycling, a figure which hasn’t been seen since 1904 when 20% of journeys were made by bike. He’s also keen to overtake the Paris Velib scheme, but I’ve been to France, those Parisians are nippy. Nippy and chic. According to most eyewitnesses of the London cycle scheme, the majority of users are the middle-aged wobblers who haven’t been on a bike for twenty years, and according to most of those who disparage the scheme this is a bad thing. No to aged cyclists, causing traffic accidents! The idea that it might be worthwhile for motorists to Stop, Look and Not Drive Into Cyclists is under discussion. Transport for London are offering free and subsidised cycle training for those who feel they need it (or those who get intimate with a few too many wing-mirrors) as well as ‘Exchanging Places’ if you fancy getting a lorry driver’s perspective on bicycles and blind spots. Some fuss has been made about helmets not being provided and/or being too bulky for people to carry around with them. This argument seems a little odd to me. Surely, if you want to wear a helmet in order not to DIE, then you can put up with the rather less terminal inconvenience of having a helmet on you. If you don’t want to cycle without a helmet, then, um, maybe, don’t? The choice is yours! Hopefully the scheme will see an increase in super-safe cycling, with all road users keeping an eye out for each other and attempting to avoid accidents, which will lead to more cycle lanes, more potential cyclists taking to the streets and less people using cars, eventually coming to a tipping point whereby every road user is a cyclist! (Hey, a girl can dream…) Alternately, a bunch of newby cyclists could get critically injured, thus proving all the naysayers (who probably drive 4x4s and have never seen a real cow) right.

Word on the web is that people seem to be finding that the service is either awesome! Would use again! A++! What a good idea! Few of the negative concerns from actual users seem safety orientated, but are more that the service doesn’t let them have a bike, doesn’t let them dock a bike and has that branding from a bank which might have put £25 million towards seeing people fit and healthy on the road, but also put £7300 million towards bombs, according to anti-war protestors who stickered some of the bikes shortly after their unveiling. Whether Barclays invests in war or not, they also skipped out on paying maybe £60 million in taxes, so, while they’ve done something great and kind and wise and benevolent here with the old Green front, they’re not exactly fluffy enviro-bunnies, ready with a hand-out for any out of pocket hippy who might have a hard time stumping up the £45 annual registration fee. Consider, for a moment, also, that companies are charged £3,625 a week for their ads to be biked around London aaand you have to wonder if what Barclays have done isn’t a little self-serving. In fact, you probably knew that without knowing the cost. What you might not know is that the Government let the aviation industry off around £9 billion a year on fuel tax…a sum which sure might pay for a few cycle schemes! Maybe even in other big cities! Or provide subsidies for folk who can’t afford the £45 a year registration fee! Without the need to have huge corporations slapped on their rears! (The bikes, that is. Not the Government. Although maybe that is something I would like to see…)

Boris; French onion seller, illustration by Jessica Rose Anne

£45 for an annual registration, £3 for a key, and the first half hour free generally seems quite a reasonable price compared to the cost of bikes and maintenance (mine is currently rotting in a friend‘s garden due to the insurmountable obstacle of a flat tyre) but the fact that you’re advertising Barclays with every pedal you push is what grinds my gears. Not only are you effectively owed three grand every week you cycle for, but are also made complicit in the insidious advertising which pervades our modern society. At least there isn’t an anti-fatty campaign, yet; the words “Put the Donut Down” scrolling menacingly around the outer rim of the rear wheel…Still, there is hope! Some bloggers have already begun removing the advertising from their keys, with the aid of just a scouring pad and some elbow grease. So, it’s not all bad. Internet communities are already springing up around the bikes; on Twitter by using the #mlc hashtag, users can log their bike id, unlock badges, ‘rule’ bikes and tweet sneaky tips. Boris Bikes is a forum providing support and information that the, slightly overwhelmed, TfL helpline may not be able to, and London cycling bloggers are reporting on techniques and faults that users need to know.

So far, only Pioneers have been using the system, that is people who registered, and reported the over-tight back wheels and docking problems, but in the future, when the kinks are ironed out, casual users will be able to hop up hop up to the docking stations and hop on, by popping in their credit card and popping out a bike. Yes, it will be another spot for enterprising thieves to appropriate your personals, but, if that doesn’t happen, it’s cheaper than buying a bike. Just try to avoid looking like an elderly French onion seller a la Boris, but feel free to shout at people throwing litter!


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2 Responses to “Boris Turning Back Time Through Pedal Power”

  1. Faye West says:

    beautiful artwork! love them x

  2. Shanna Steele says:

    I am so excited about this . Off to London for a jewellery fair and I entend to try out the bikes. We have a scheme in Dublin and its a huge success. Happy pedalling!

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