Friday, 13 August 2010

Could the cycle hire scheme change attitudes as well as commutes?

I've been stopped several times by random people while out on a Boris bike.

'How much does it cost?'

'How do they handle?'

'Have you had key problems?'

'Is it easy to find a dock?'

People are interested, they want to know. So I tell them, often wheezing as they're invariably on little carbon fibre things. I've been told a couple of times that they're interest is because they're keen to get a friend or other half cycling in London and it's a nice way to start.

I've also helped several people having problems with the scheme. I've guided people to the nearest neighbouring dock when there's no empty spaces, I've pointed out that putting your key in makes it harder to dock the bikes, not easier and I've shown people which way up to put their key in the slot.

I've been happy to help, but what's shocked me is how many others are equally willing.

On the tube, it's an unwritten rule of London that you NEVER strike up conversations with strangers. Those who do are automatically given the mental label 'tourist'. Eye contact is a no no.

Cycle hire scheme bods seem to reject this. Even suited and booted trader types will give a hearty 'good morning' as we release bikes at the same time. 'Lovely day for it', is called out by the previously sour-faced school maam lookalike. In a London where I'm often the only person to help those with prams negotiate the stairs at stations 'Allow me!' is bellowed by an older gent who has seen me struggle to pull up a stuck seat post. I was so stunned I could barely offer a thank you before he sped away.

Yes, this is a different way to commute. Perhaps it won't just change the way we travel in London, maybe it'll change our entire attitude towards the others battling to work and back. Dare I say the word... camaraderie.

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