Rentals - the New Scam
Bicycle rentals are now a reality in London. The European city with more cycle lanes, London has
had a steady increase of cycle user, in spite of the cold and hectic weather.
This has pushed the mayor of London
to investigate new ways of making money and at the same time to become a martyr of a good cause.
Bike shops have proliferated all
over the city and beyond and they became one of the most successful businesses in town. They sell
used bikes, new bikes, bicycle accessories, bicycle clothing,
bicycle components, bicycle frames, folding bicycle, touring bikes and
everything else related to cycling.
The new bicycle rentals scheme by TfL is by all means very welcomed, we can always use more bikes
and less cars on the historic roads of the capital, but this comes at a high prize, very high
There used to be another well established service with
much more reasonable fees: OYBike (picture on the
left). Due to London's new scheme though, they have been forced out of the capital and they now
operate in Cardiff and Reading. The founder is London cabbie Bernie Hanning, who had the idea
in the '90s.
Barclays’ Bank has invested £25.000.000 (yes, that is millions!)
in the scheme, with the purchase of 6000 bikes from Canada. Bicycle rentals are apparently very popular in Canada,
where the Mayor has gathered information and hints.
These bikes are apparently built to last, but the whole thing has
a terrible attitude attached to it. When I was a kid in the ‘80s I used
to enjoy bicycle rentals for a fun afternoon in Rome, Italy for the price a teenager could afford.
Forget about that here in London; a “fun” afternoon on a London bicycle rentals will set teenagers back of
around £40, which in most cases is more than their monthly allowance.
A good look at the prices will reveal the obscenity of this
bicycle rentals scheme. First of all you have to register and get an electronic key. Each key will cost you
You can request more keys for other family members and here is where the tricky part begins:
daddy has registered and he was thoughtful enough to get three additional keys for mommy and his two
For every day that you use your key you get charged £1 just for
the privilege of renting... so the first half hour is not really free, is it? Just say it... why trick
innocent citizens with misleading adverts? Most people out there are more than happy to pay a reasonable
amount of money for a good service. What I think is intolerable is the fact that people are lead to believe that
they are actually renting a bike for free when they clearly aren't. But this is not it, the worst is yet to come
and you won't believe it.
It wasn’t long before people realized that if daddy hired a bike
on Monday, he was charged £4, as it is enough to use only one key to have them all charged the daily fee. It’s all
in the very small print that nobody usually reads and that if they do read, it goes very unnoticed as it is
absurd and unthinkable. The prices are shamelessly exposed and I am yet
to understand the logic in them:
First 30 minutes
of a brand new bicycle in London
It looks as if they want to punish people for keeping the bikes
for longer. Now about the damage fee, go tell them that someone damaged your bike after you returned it... they
will run after you to collect the £300 damage fee.
This bicycle rentals scheme is designed to steal money from people
that are not able to be spot on time. Unfortunately this is something that is happening more and more in this
country: councils, private companies, public entities, banks, they are all trying to get money from you for
not guessing correctly about what you will use or when, instead of honestly charging for what you will actually
use. Gambling takes advantage of the incapacity of certain people to stop playing; this system takes advantage
of the inability of people to judge their needs. Gambling is illegal in most countries... shouldn't this system be
illegal too? Read more about other English
Back to bicycle rentals, if you think of it, they are doing exactly the same thing: they take
advantage of the fact that you will not be able to return the bike at the time you wish, especially because it
is not guaranteed that you will find a free docking station... you might have to look for one and that will
take time... and money out of your pocket.
There is another trick: one of the small print rules says that you
are not allowed to tight your rented bike anywhere, meaning that you actually have to sit on it for the duration of
the rental. They do not come with a lock, so forget about the occasional coffee, tee, or to pop in a shop.
During the planning of this scheme the mayor of London was scared to death that
a huge number of people would suddenly carry other human beings in the front basket as if they were rabbits or
potato bags. The solution to his nightmare? No, not a visit to the
psychiatrist, but instead the "obvious" solution was to reduce the size of the bicycle rentals
basket to a ridiculous size, so that people will not be able to carry anything on the bicycles.
Bicycle rentals should be fun, not stressful. A brand new bike
from a London shop costs an average of £100. I have seen them for £70 with 10 gears and a large basket. Isn’t it
cheaper to just get one of them and park it somewhere for your own convenience? Or even give it away to
charity when you are done with it? In most cases it will be cheaper.
If you are a tourist that intends to stay for a week, this is a much
cheaper solution that will offer you the freedom of owning your own bike for a fraction of the cost, even if
when you are done with it you just dump it somewhere.
Or you could get a folding bike, you could take it back
home at the end of your holiday. I haven’t seen many tandem bikes
around the capital and I personally do not advise them, as they can be dangerous in the hectic traffic of London.
Electric bikes are also not very common and there are absolutely zero Bmx bikes around town.
Even though London is a cycle friendly city, there are a number of serious
accidents involving bicycles. Read more about bike accidents
(by clicking on the "Next" link below) and what to do to avoid them. Also make sure to read the
free Highway Code for Bicycles.
Rules are there for a reason; observe them all and you will have a better life in the long run.
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