Cyclo-therapy: Unleashing thousands of bikes on terror vortexes like the Elephant and Castle could be, well, messy
Saturday 21 November 2009
I'm the cycle snob who looks down his nose at hapless riders and their rubbish bikes. But during a recent trip to Montreal I was the one eliciting scornful glances from local pedal pushers. Not because my bike was rubbish – it wasn't bad – but because, with my spidery limbs and hunched form, I looked like I'd ridden out of a Quentin Blake illustration.
The bike wasn't in fact mine, and the saddle would only rise so far. It belonged to Montreal. Canada's bilingual metropolis is the latest city to open its gates to thousands of rental bikes. And next summer the system, called "Bixi" (a conflation of "bike" and "taxi"), rolls into London.
So what can we expect when 6,000 bikes and 400 docking stations flood the capital? Mayor Boris Johnson has heralded his Cycle Hire scheme as a "revolution in cycling". It's a big promise, so for a glimpse of BoJo's vision, I joined my Montrealer cousin, Esther, for a Bixi road test.
First stop: the local dock, a five-minute walk from Esther's apartment. Stick a credit card into the pay station and the dock releases a bike of your choice. It couldn't be simpler. We headed a few miles downtown to Montreal's historic quarter, where we docked our bikes for a coffee before grabbing new rides for a foray to Atwater Market.
Ride, dock, eat, dock, go – it was a great way to get around and the bikes held up well, even if I felt a bit stupid on mine. Weighty affairs with rugged tyres, built-in lights and three gears, they roll at a fair lick and boast handy baskets. They only struggled going uphill – but the good news is that newer bikes sport seven speeds.
Bixi is an improvement on Paris's "Vélib" scheme, which has been popular but plagued by thieves and vandals. But the bike-hire model surely faces its sternest test in London. The Mayor has promised a network of new cycle paths, but London will never have the luxury of Montreal's wide streets. Unleashing thousands of bikes on terror vortexes like the Elephant and Castle could be, well, messy.
But after a great day on two wheels, I am smitten by Bixi, and willing its transatlantic adventure to succeed. Just two requests, Boris: think of a better name than Cycle Hire (like Bixi); and give gangly folk like me a few more inches in the saddle department.
For more on the scheme, see independent.co.uk/cyclotherapy
Sales of the tablet are set to fall again, say analysts
Met Police confirm there was a 'minor disturbance' and that no-one was arrested
George Lucas criticises the major Hollywood film studios
Does Chris Grayling realise what a vague concept he is dealing with?
Trend which requires crisps, a fork and a strong stomach is sweeping Mexico's streets
Parties threaten resort's image as a family destination
I Am Bread could actually be a challenging and nuanced title
- 1 Indian footballer Peter Biaksangzuala dies after injuring spine doing somersault celebration
- 2 Jack the Ripper: Scientist who claims to have identified notorious killer has 'made serious DNA error'
- 3 Banksy arrest hoax: Internet duped by fake report claiming that the street artist's identity has been revealed
- 4 Drink alcohol and eat meat to improve male fertility - but cut down on coffee, studies suggest
- 5 Brian Harvey turns up at Downing Street and 'demands to speak to Prime Minister'
Cameron is warned 'no possibility' of UK reducing immigration and that bid to bring in quota on migrant workers would be illegal
Residents should throw a street party and mix with immigrant neighbours, councils told
London bus driver allegedly kicks gay couple off for kissing
Russell Brand threatened with arrest after filming outside Fox News headquarters
Amal Alamuddin calls for the return of the Elgin Marbles from Britain: 'Injustice has persisted for too long'
Lord Freud: Tory welfare minister apologises after saying disabled people are 'not worth’ the minimum wage
£80 - £140 per day: Randstad Education Leeds: Year 5 Teacher KS2 teaching job...
£35000 - £45000 Per Annum Pensions Scheme After 6 Months: Clearwater People So...
£35000 - £37000 per annum + Benefits: Ashdown Group: Systems Analyst / Busines...
£30000 - £35000 per annum + Benefits: Ampersand Consulting LLP: Senior Change ...