By Nick Olivier
I had a chance to try out the bike share system in London, called “Barclays Cycle Hire”. It’s the third installment of my field research tour after experiencing bike sharing in San Antonio and Washington D.C. Now I have a taste for how the Euros do it. Bike sharing has a much longer history in Europe, although London’s system didn’t launch until 2010. The system is sponsored by and named after British banking giant Barclays, not unlike New York’s impending “Citibike” system. London’s system boasts 8,000 bikes located at 570 stations across the city center.
I picked up a thick city cycling guide from my hotel, which featured a large map of bike lanes and recommended routes. London has a number of cycling “superhighways”, which are wide bike lanes alongside car traffic. The lanes are painted bright blue (matching the bikes) and they occasionally split off from the roads onto their own, bike-only thoroughfares winding through parks, alleys or housing estates. These thoroughfares even had their own stoplights when they intersected with roads. The superhighways were marked clearly, which is nice because the narrow streets of downtown London can be a confusing place to bike. However, where there isn’t a superhighway, you’re left to fend for yourself.
The bikes seemed to be quite popular. I get the feeling they are ideally meant for locals who don’t have the space to store their own bike at home and who need something to get them from the Tube (subway) stop to and from their place of work. Similar to European cities like Amsterdam and Copenhagen, it’s common to see people biking to work in dress clothes in London. I was never far from a station in Central London, but numerous stations were empty after all the bikes had been checked out. These are issues that bigger cities face. Rest assured that Fort Worth’s system will be accessible to tourists and commuters alike.