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England Travel Tips 
Discover the Real England   



  By Mike Valeriani
Regions: N West N East Yorkshire W Midlands E Midlands East S West S East

London Bicycle Rentals - the New Scam


TfL new bicycles inside garageBicycle 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 bikesbicycle accessories, bicycle clothing, bicycle components, bicycle frames, folding bicycle, touring bikes and everything else related to cycling.  

OYBike bicycle rentalsThe 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 indeed. 

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 £3. 

London cyclist riding next to a taxiYou 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 kids.

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  


 I hour


 1.5 hours


 2 hours


 2.5 hours


 6 hours


 24 hours


 Late fee


 Damage fee


 Average price 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 scams.

Barclays bicycle rentals stationBack 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.

Cyclist riding between bus and carIf 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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