DAA Residential
Whats in Wapping

Barclays Cycle Hire in Wapping

Barclays Cycle Hire in Wapping

Where Are They?

As well as a docking station at Tower Hill, there are 2 stations in Wapping (click on map or see links below for details).

  • Wapping High Street: start of St Katherines Way
  • Vaughan Way: opposite Waitrose

The stations are in West Wapping, which isn’t ideal if you live further East in Wapping Wall near the Wapping Project or Prospect of Whitby end of the High Street.  However this is only the first phase of the scheme and we will perhaps see more when it extends to Limehouse and Canary Wharf.

Like anything new there are always teething problems!  Differing views on these …

Barclays Cycle Hire Wapping

This is a combined article with mixed views: first are points highlighted by 4 residents (Christian, David, Roger and Sarah) followed by an article from Paul “Running Errands on a Borris Bike” that gives a pedal by pedal account and information well worth being aware of.

We did have a further comment from Raj which simply said “I’m not Riding a Borris Bike.  No Way!” The others didn’t agree:

Just Do It! It’s such a great idea and I think I may have finally found a sport I like without the hassle of buying, locking and storing the bike

Very positive about the scheme, but here is Christian’s 3 day diary:

  • Friday I took a bike to Victoria but was unable to get one to go back to the City, as the station gave me the red signal.
  • Saturday I had a bike whose back brake was way to tight so that I had to swap it out at the next docking station (wasn’t sure if this justified pressing the “damaged bike” button).
  • Sunday I tried to get a bike back from Kensington but was unable to get one out of the docking station (red light again). Fellow bikers had the same issue. I just kept trying and 10 minutes later it worked.

Easy to Ride?

Yes, but they are heavy and they need to sort out the …

Brakes!

Seems the brakes of almost all the bikes are too tight so when you pick them up (not that easy) the back wheel doesn’t turn freely.  This makes cycling on what is already a heavy bike even harder; but more of a workout if that’s what you’re after!  The 3 residents who’ve tried the scheme so far all complained about this but something that should be easy to resolve.

Logistics

As noted in the 3 day diary, the bikes aren’t always where they’re needed: full racks in one location and empty ones in another.  One resident working in the West End finished work late one evening and decided to try the bikes out …but there were none in the racks nearby.  Same problem for another resident working in Bishopsgate in the City.  This also presents the problem if you do cycle back to Wapping and find both racks full: as well as being incovenient there’s the risk of a late return whilst you cycle to an alternative dock!

Other Thoughts

Mixed views from taxi drivers and those in cars and some concerns it will bring London roads to a grinding halt!  Nearby Narrow Street in Limehouse for example has just started a petition to divert the scheme onto the Highway as they say Narrow Street is just TOO NARROW [...view details] It gives you a whole new dimension of freedom: how often were you stuck on a bus thinking that walking would have been faster and cheaper? Never again!

When the scheme is extended later in the year outside of zone 1 it has the potential to be the best thing that’s happened to London Transport in years!

Running Errands on a ‘Boris Bike’ by Paul

As I had a few bits and pieces to do around town,and my regular bike is currently in for a service,so I thought it was a good opportunity to test out the new Barclays Cycle Hire scheme. Here’s how I got on.

Registering

Last week I filled out my details on the TFL website to register for the scheme and receive an access key.  Eventually this won’t be required, people will be able just to turn up and have a go, but right now it is only available to those that pre-register.  This cost £3 for the access key and £1 which would cover my first 24 hours access, to start when I picked up a bike. (I’ll come on to the charges in a sec).

Registering was…fiddly.  I initially got as far as getting to the ‘how would you like to pay’ bit, got confused as to when the access period would start and left it for another day.  I came back and there was no way to login.  Take a look for yourself – www.tfl.gov.uk – select Cycle Hire and try and find a link to let you login.  Silly.  It also places restrictions on the type of password you can use, but eventually I got it filled in and 2 days later I received my access key.  (Despite reports that TFL weren’t putting enough postage on the envelopes, mine arrived without any drama).

Costs

The charge scheme is also..fiddly.  One thing when going round today is that many people are interested in the bikes and ask how much it costs.  I’d love to give them an answer that doesn’t start with “Well…errm..”.  There are two costs associated with the bikes, an ‘access fee’  (£1/day, £5/week or £45/year) then a ‘usage charge’ (30 mins free, up to 1 hour is £1, much more expensive after that).  In practice, the scheme is best suited to shorter sessions, so in general, it’s “As many up to 30min journeys in 24 hours as you like for £1″.

Barclays Cycle Hire WappingLocations

There are two locations of interest to Wapping residents – on Vaughan Way near the Highway (on the chicane) and on Wapping High St at the Tower Bridge end.  If you’re on the Eastern side of Wapping you already have a long walk ahead of you to get to one. We’re right on the edge of the scheme though, so if it does get extended we should be better served in future.

Experience

Before setting off, I had a look on the website to check how many bikes were currently at each stop (plenty on both).  I turned up to Vaughan Way, stuck my key in the slot, got a green light and tried to remove the bike.  Nothing.  It wasn’t letting me have my bike. Tried the next slot, same thing.  3rd time, I gave it a bit of ‘wellie’ and it came lose.  They are a bit reluctant to leave the docking stations so you need to be forceful, but there’s no directions to tell you this.

There’s also a fundamental design problem with the docking stations,particularly Vaughan Way.  The bikes face away from the road, with the back wheel on the kerb.  The stations are designed so you need to move the bike backwards to release it.  So to get your bike you need to stand IN the road, on a narrow bit with a chicane, and pull at a bike reluctant to leave its docking station.  No idea what they were thinking!

Furthermore, there’s no access code or PIN required to get a bike; if you lose the key and don’t cancel it in time, expect a £300 bill for an unreturned bike.

Bikes

The bikes themselves are pretty robust, all the gears and mechanics are hidden away behind covers to prevent interference.  The brakes are excellent and bring the bike to a halt very quickly; there are 3 gears, though the top one isn’t really fast enough for my tastes.  It’s not obvious but they do have lights, dynamos so that they are powered by, and turn on with, pedalling.  They have instructions all over them (“this is the back brake”) and a warning to look out for large vehicles turning left, which is good as that’s the most likely cause of cycle death in London.  They also are all fitted with bells.

They’re not particularly stylish machines, but they’re fit for purpose, as long as the purpose isn’t racing to your destination cycle-courier style.  The only thing you can adjust is the seat height.

Journey

Put my own helmet on (none are supplied) and off to Aldgate.  The bike performed OK in the traffic, a little slow and clunky at times but got me there.  Looked round for a docking station….ah.  I had a quick look before setting off to check there were docking stations in the area, but now having to actually *find* one I realise how difficult this is.  There are no signs pointing towards your nearest docking station.  They are not marked on streetmaps, bus maps, the handy maps outside Tube stations.  What’s more, the clock is ticking; I’m not sure exactly how long I’ve had the bike out – there’s no indication on the bike – but if it’s not back in a docking station within 30 minutes I start incurring extra costs.  Zipping round the back streets I look for a station, but only find bike racks, which are no use to me right now.  I finally find a suitable station in Fashion St, quite a bit further away from my actual destination and chuck the bike back into the docking station.  Concious of reports that some users didn’t put them back properly, and then continued to incur costs, I make sure it’s firmly attached and the light on the docking station turns green to confirm.  There’s no way of telling how long I’ve had the bike out or what fees I’ve accrued.

More about the Docking Stations

Now a little disoriented I check the docking station map for guidance.  Another thing I don’t like – the docking station maps don’t put North at the top of the map.  They’ve dispensed with this centuries’ old tradition, in favour of putting ‘up’ on the map in the direction you are facing whilst reading the map.  Maybe some people will like this, I found it annoying.  It does however show your surroundings along with the 3 or 4 nearest docking stations, so I can see where I should have parked the bike and where I’m going.

Convenience

The scheme relies on having a docking station at both your origin and destination.  There was a bike rack right outside my destination in Aldgate but because I didn’t have a bike lock with me and I would continue to be charged whilst parked, I had to find a docking station instead.  This stops the bike being cost-effective, for trips East of Wapping as there are no docking stations – no good for heading up to Canary Wharf for shopping or the Cinema, or taking a trip to Victoria Park. If/when the scheme is extended we won’t be quite so restricted in our choice of destination.  Going West, we can get as far as Olympia before running out of docking stations (you can break up a journey into several 30 minute ‘legs’ without incurring extra charges, but you must wait 5 minutes between checking a bike in and taking another one out)

Off I go again…

So out of Aldgate office and to the closest cycle station this time (Devonshire Square) having memorised it from the Fashion St docking station.  The first bike I try to check out doesn’t respond at all, no red lights, no green lights, nothing.  The next bike comes out OK but the back wheel is stiff – the brakes are caught slightly on it so it doesn’t rotate freely.  I’ve no idea if I can put this back in and get another bike without waiting 5 mins, but as it’s just about usable, I persevere with it up to Old St.

At this point I’ve got no idea where the docking stations in Old St are, the map at Devonshire Sq shows me the closest couple of docking stations, then on a larger scale map where Old St is, but doesn’t show if/where the docking stations are on the larger scale map.  North is now where South should be, different again from the previous docking station.

I come up with the cunning plan of navigating by docking stations – I can see one on the way to Old St, and it will presumably have a map which shows the next one along and so forth till I get to Old St.

It’s a clever idea in theory but in practice, having to pull over at the Norton Folgate station, look at the map, then get back on the bike is a little time consuming, and the next docking station is tucked away in a side-street that I can’t be bothered finding.  I cross my fingers and hope the Old St one is obvious.  Successfully negotiate the Old St roundabout (a good urban cycling test) and thankfully the bright blue docking station there is easy to spot.

Another user is on the phone to what sounds like TFL, trying to figure out how to report a fault with the bike; sounds like the ‘report fault’ option on the docking station wasn’t working for him properly.  Pick up stuff from Old St, then check out another bike; thankfully this time I know where I’m going so no navigation issues, and I got myself a decent bike as well so can zip back home (via the supermarket near another docking station).

Conclusion

It was easy to be frustrated by almost everything about the logistics – the docking stations are temperamental and poorly placed, the website isn’t user-friendly, the cost to use isn’t straightforward and some of the bikes already have faults.

But in the end I made 4 journeys for £1 (looking at my usage on the website I checked in the first bike with 6 minutes to spare).  On top of that it brings the benefits of cycling to a new audience – it’s healthy, cheap and quick (as long as you know where the docking stations are) – on the way home I did Liverpool St to Vaughan Way in 8 minutes docking station to station – TFL reckons that’s 21 minutes on the 100 bus at a cost of £1.20 each way.

I’ll keep using it, and hopefully the teething troubles will be fixed or improved; the main advantage for me is times like meeting friends in the West End for drinks, I can at least cycle in one-way, not worry about having a bicycle stolen and catch the tube home.

Whether I can use it when out and about for a unplanned trip across town remains to be seen; it’s not so much ‘turn up and go’, as find a docking station, hope that there’s a bicycle in good shape there, adjust seat, head to destination, hope that you can find a suitable docking station near destination.

It’s no substitute for the true convenience of your own bike, or, as John Snow calls it, his ‘trusty steed’, but at least if you leave the bike at a docking station you don’t have to worry about theft.

Resident Review: Paul

www.paulbrockphotography.co.uk/

Other Background & Resources



What are the Plans for Cycling in London?

An informative video from Assembly member Jenny Jones who explains what the plans are and how the planned 400% growth in cycling will be achieved by 202


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  • http://www.paulbrockphotography.co.uk Brock

    Good find Dan! It doesn’t look like the Waitrose one is on there though, so perhaps the plans have changed. Extending the current Vaughan Way one would potentially be dodgy so maybe they switched it down the road.

    Good to see an effort to put them close to the tube/Overground stations, very frustrating when you have to hunt after leaving a station.

    And a shame those nasty ‘private’ land owners at Canary Wharf seem to be boycotting the scheme, though 195 looks handy for WIQ cinema at least.

  • Dan

    Did some digging and found the link to this document which gives all of the proposed locations, number of bikes, etc. Looks like we’ll be well served throughout Wapping:

    http://moderngov.towerhamlets.gov.uk/Published/C00000320/M00003053/AI00027885/$CABReportCHSX12Jan5docMC1512101842.docA.ps.pdf

  • http://www.whatsinwapping.co.uk What’s in Wapping

    Sounds good – new docking station outside Waitrose definitely under construction as photo tweeted last week shows: http://twitpic.com/3q6uz7
    Not entirely sure where the reported additional 600 bikes for Wapping will all go though…

  • http://www.paulbrockphotography.co.uk Brock

    new docking station going up right outside Waitrose. More bikes, more stations, closer to me than the current stations. Thumbs up!

  • http://www.bonsoni.com/ Bonsoni

    “Mixed views from taxi drivers and those in cars and some concerns it will bring London roads to a grinding halt! ….. just started a petition to divert the scheme onto the Highway as they say Narrow Street is just TOO NARROW”

    The European countries those who have extended bike riding cultures, they have the similar types of roads. Yes the London roads are narrow comparing with some big cities, but we must not forget that London contains one of the most highest ratio of roads and urban area.

  • josephine

    Paul, I’ve had the problem – the first time I ever tried to use my key so thought it was just me. I checked it was Active and it was but when I rang the helpline I got some strange explanation about my activation having expired. (activation is mean to be valid until 2038!).

    Anyway, I’ve now used it ok but came across a guy at the docking station yesterday having apparently the same problem. Good then to know about this fault button issue and the need to wait 60 seconds.

  • Paul

    Don’t know if this is a common occurrence or my key is buggered… I often get a red light when entering my key (after flashing amber for about a second), try another bike, and get the same, and this happens for about five or six bikes! I had to walk to another docking station today because of it.

    Called them up and got told the light goes red because someone’s pressed the fault button, and if I don’t leave it sixty seconds before trying another bike, I’ll just get the same. Asked the guy if the fault button can only be pressed whilst in use, or whilst it’s docked – he thinks the latter. Which seems to me to be a major design flaw – any mischievous sod can walk down the station and render every bike unusable?

    Has anyone else had this problem? Love the scheme but it’s bloody annoying to say the least when you’re walking down the dock getting rejected by every bike.