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London—a view from the handlebars

Created date

April 26th, 2011

Here s a new idea London by bike. Naturally you won t bring your own, but London is ready for you with Barclays Cycle Hire in hundreds of docking locations with thousands of bicycles at the ready. You can get the use of one of these three-speed, sturdy bikes with your credit card and sail off into London traffic (gulp) as though you lived there. I know; I ve done it. London traffic is intense but mannerly and on backstreets and in parks lessens to a considerable degree. The Barclays Cycle program helpfully suggests routes at three different levels: easy, fast, and leisure. A good way to begin might be in Hyde Park, where you needn t face autos at all and several docking locations are handy.

Short and long rides

The Barclays system is designed for short hauls. Each Barclays cycle docking station also has an interactive screen that answers route questions and gives costs, docking locations, and other pertinent information, including if a specific location has bikes available or an open slot to turn your bike in. You may want a bicycle for more than just going from one spot to another. Turn to London Bicycle Tour Company for rental bikes to do your own exploration or join one of their conducted bicycle tours for around $30 (seewww.londonbicycle.com).

Feast for the senses

A fine ride can be had along South Bank, with its host of attractions and the panorama of London from St. Paul s Cathedral to the Houses of Parliament unfolding across the Thames. Not long ago, cycl-ing was briefly banned on South Bank a pedestrian conclave but cyclists so objected that it was reinstated, with caveats to give way to those on foot. Suppose you re just making the downhill ride from Hyde Park Corner to Buckingham Palace. The Royal Standard flies from the flag staff, meaning the Queen is in residence. It s early, but you hear a bagpipe somewhere. The Queen is having breakfast! The piper plays outside her window from 9 a.m. to 9:15 a.m., as she breakfasts, whenever her royal person is at the palace. You d not hear the bagpipes on the Tube, or on a bus, or in a London cab. The Tube and the bus and the cab all have their uses, but the bicycle has its own rewards. ' '

More information

Barclays Cycle Hire There s a one pound (approximately $1.60) access charge for 24 hours, or five pounds for a week s access, but costs rise steeply past the initial free 30 minutes, or one pound for one hour. It s possible, if a tad inconvenient, to ride all day for just the access charge if you dock within 30 minutes and, after a five-minute wait, set off again. A grace period of up to 15 minutes allows you to get to another location if your dock of choice is filled. Warning: the docking station screens sometimes freeze up; paper maps showing docking locations are at some Tube (subway) stops or can be printed from the website (www.tfl.gov.uk/roadu...). London Bicycle Tour Company London Bicycle Tour Company operates on a progressively cheaper scale begining at about $6 for the first hour, or $30 for the first day. The company is located on the Thames South Bank and is open every day except Christmas, which suggests people bicycle whatever the weather may be.

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