Wednesday, February 16, 2011

Boris Bike Blues - Part the Second

For a lunchtime thrill, and to blow away the cobwebs accumulated by sitting at a desk all morning, I ventured out for a quick Tour de Londres astride a hire bike. At the William IV Street dock, I had a couple of 'refusals', the red light coming on, before successfully releasing a bike. Then off round Trafalgar Square, through Admiralty Arch and onto the well-hidden off-road route along The Mall and up Constitution Hill. Then across Hyde Park Corner and intoHyde Park itself, again along the lovely off-road path. There are lots of hire bikes being ridden here, and indeed lots of docking stations - 11 or so, with more immediately outside the park itself. Unfortunately, with the last sands of my 30 minutes trickling away, all the docking stations were full - Kensington Gore, Queen's Gate, Queen's Gate North, Palace Gate. At the Palace Gate dock, I tried to push the 'Docking Station Full' button on the docking station computer screen, but it was greyed-out. I imagine the docking station didn't think it was full, perhaps because someone hadn't docked a bike properly. This is quite simply poor software design. The display should have indicated which docking points were free, or at least displayed a message indicating that there were free docking points, instead of leaving the user to guess what was going on. I didn't have time to check sixteen bikes so I rode swiftly (well, as swiftly as is possible on a 23kg bike) back to Queen's Gate, where the docking station was more agreeable and gave me another 15 minutes. I docked the bike finally at Albert Gate, and walked down to Hyde Park Corner to pick up another for the return journey. Again, I got four 'refusals', before a fellow-rider docked a bike that I was able to take back out.

From my experience over the last few days, there is a definite problem with 'stuck bikes'. I don't think there's a problem with my key. Why does this problem arise? Maybe the bikes or docking points are faulty and not being fixed. I can't believe significant numbers of people are maliciously reporting the bikes faulty when they are not. Whatever the cause, it's a significant annoyance, confusing for the newcomer, and if you're relying on the bikes to get you around, a real problem.

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