A generation hence, London residents will wonder why their bike share bikes are called “Boris Bikes”, and they’ll likely invent some creative folk etymologies for the phrase.
London’s Cycle Hire bikes are named for one of the major cheerleaders of the system, Mayor of London Boris Johnson. About 70,000 people have registered for the bike sharing system, and they’re logging 17,000 trips each day.
It’s good to see that London’s bike share is already becoming an institution after only a few weeks of operation.
Currently, the shared bikes are available only for registered users. Transport for London planned to make the bikes available to tourists and other London visitors via a credit card only, but they’re delaying that until the end of the year now because of software delays.
One of the big apparent differences between “Boris Bikes” and Paris Velib is the usage patterns. In London, the bikes seem to used a lot by commuters with movements that users describe as a twice daily tidal flow. In the morning, the tide flows from transit centers to office locations, leaving empty docking stations at one end of town and full docking stations at the other end. In the evening, the tide flows the other direction.
The result is commuters who can’t depend on having a bike when you need one. This isn’t fatal in London — an underground station or other transit stop is usually within walking distance. In Silicon Valley, however, some local planners envision bike share at Caltrain stations as a way to help with the “last mile” problem and alleviate bikes on board the train. It’s four miles from the train station to my office; if I can’t depend on a bike at the docking station, the plan is a non-starter for me. Not only that, once I get to the office that bike is tied up — unused — for the entire day.