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Having a Barclays

Matthew Chatfield

By guest contributor HM the Cat mu·se·um feet The feeling of prostration you get having walked gently through a whole museum.

Barclay's Bike Hire map © William Hook


Jostling through crowds, gesticulating at palaces and monuments then gawping wide-eyed at fabulous art can bring on a fatigue which can make even the most ardent tourist feel wobbly and exhausted. If there’s no chance of a sit down and a nice cup of tea then an emergency banana can temporarily alleviate this sudden onset of tiredness or’museum feet’, triggered by overstimulated eyes and vigorous pointing.

London is a fantastic city and, with so much point at and photograph, it is easy to be overwhelmed and use up your energy resources. The organised visitor may plan a manageable itinerary but I tend to be a bit more free-range; a glimpse of a statue can cause a major deviation to the best laid plans and the banana stash can soon be as depleted as my energy reserves. However, the cure to museum feet is at hand!

Horseguard or is it bikeguard's parade!

Horseguard or is it bikeguard’s parade!

I was lucky enough to be invited to London by a journalist friend who had been asked to explore the nation’s capital on a Barclay’s or’Boris’ Bike. I was quite literally along for the ride and was under no obligation to write about my weekend break. However, I had such fun I felt compelled to share the delights with you guys.

For the provincial or uninitiated, Barclays Cycle Hire is, “available 24 hours a day, all year round. The bikes are self-service and there’s no booking. Just turn up and go. Take a cycle, ride it where you like, then return it, ready for the next person.” The project was initially for members but has been expanded to the casual user. Anyone (over the age of fourteen) can borrow a bike for up to half an hour at no charge as long as they return it within thirty minutes to one of the hundreds of bike docking stations scattered liberally across the city. After a five minute pause, they can then take another bike. With conscientious time-keeping a visitor could ride all day without paying any usage charges. And even better, London is flat! For a resident of Ryde – one of the hilliest towns on the undulating Isle of Wight – cycling round the metropolis was a breeze even on a sturdy Boris Bike with only three gears.

My friend and I picked up our bikes from a docking station a moment’s walk from our accommodation, the luxurious St Ermin’s Hotel. We were organised enough to bring our own cycle helmets, hi-vis clothes and even cycle clips. However, St Ermin’s and many other hotels have cycle helmets for visitors to borrow on request. Using our Barclays Cycle Hire membership keys we liberated our bikes (with a bit of pushing and pulling) and, having checked that the tyres were inflated and the brakes were in order, we were off! London suddenly became manageable.

Perched smugly on my saddle with my pink rucksack secured in the bike’s basket, I pedalled through parks, alongside the Thames, to historic palaces and familiar landmarks. Infinitely more comfortable than the claustrophobic crush of the tube and not subject to road congestion like on a bus, I was free to explore as far as my spinning legs would take me and, in this unchallenging topography, my friend and I managed to cover quite a distance. At one point we ended up at the Kings Road, Chelsea where we re-docked our bikes and willingly succumbed to’retail feet’ in the fabulous Anthropologie. Restored by the most delicious summer pudding and tea at the Chelsea Physic Garden we then picked up some fresh bikes and cycled back to central London. As luck would have it, every Sunday The Mall is closed to traffic and we enjoyed a surreal car-free ride up to the gates of Buckingham Palace – a superb end to our wonderful weekend.

Perhaps it was the glorious weather or the above average police presence or maybe the good old ‘Landan Tan’ community spirit but everyone was super-friendly and I chatted to locals, international visitors, and imported policemen from around the county. The eco-friendly Barclays bike is an obvious way to reduce congestion and harmful emissions and I felt like part of a small analogue revolution. Cycling even in the most casual way will help the user’s fitness and, by riding between places of interest, my feet were preserved! Stats: Day One: cycled 6.1 miles/9.8km. Day Two: cycled 9.7 miles/15.6km. Royalty sightings: none Imported policemen: many!

Matthew Chatfield

Uncooperative crusty. Unofficial Isle of Wight cultural ambassador. Conservation, countryside and the environment, with extra stuff about spiders.

One thought on “Having a Barclays

  • Sue Lupton

    Thank you, Cat, for being a great Boris-bike-buddy and now writing an entertaining report.


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