Anyone living outside London is probably fed up of hearing about the infernal failures of the city's transport network. We do like a moan. But, while the arteries of our road, rail and tube systems develop an acute case of angina, a two-wheeled success story has given us cause for cheer.
More than 6,000 blue "Boris bikes" have swarmed across central London's streets since the launch of the cycle hire scheme in July. I had a quick preview in June but with two bikes of my own (and being a bike snob), why would I need a clunky rental?
But around 100,000 members have now made more than a million journeys between the 400-odd docking stations in the city. There have been barely any of the feared thefts and, what's more, it's set to be the only transport system in the capital that makes money.
So it was almost with a sense of not wanting to be left out that I signed up for annual membership (£48). For a few days my key, which releases a bike when inserted into a dock, jangled in my pocket as I rode to work as normal. But then came an off-bike day (pub after work) when I usually join weary commuters subject to signal failures and leaves on lines. I live outside the hire zone so caught my train into town as normal. But rather than rely on the Circle Line to get me west to The Independent's Kensington office, I fired up the cycle hire app on my phone outside Green Park tube and quickly located the nearest dock.
Minutes later I was zipping through Hyde Park, compelled by the bike's stately geometry to take in the sights – the gold Albert Memorial glinting in the sun – and to imagine the rammed train metres below my wheels. It took me just 15 minutes to reach the docking station right outside the doors to my office. Several hours later I hopped on another rented bike to head east for drinks. In a city renowned for its moody commuters – and we can be excused for bristling – Boris bikes have blown fresh air into the gloom. I'm one former sceptic turned evangelist. Still, come back to me when it starts to rain.
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