The £1 access is for 24 hours (hooray) rather than to midnight / 4.30 am like one day travelcards, so being on the South Bank to see the free stuff outside the National Theatre on Sunday lunchtime and wanting to catch the Henry Moore exhibition at the Tate before it closes next week, I thought I'd cycle between the two.
Getting a bike from under Waterloo Bridge, no problem. Going round the roundabout to the south of Westminster Bridge, no problem, but I am confident about roundabouts and given the things' acceleration (not good) I can see some people ending up walking around such places. Across the bridge, past Parliament, ding the bell going past the remaining tent and banners, along Millbank to the rack at the corner of Tate Britain shown on the paper map.
Which doesn't exist. (The rack, not the gallery or the map.)
OK, on to Vauxhall Bridge, grr. Get a receipt (you can print out any of your most recent journeys) mostly to see how long it took. Rack to rack time, 13 minutes. I will have to try it on a real bike to see what difference the weight and the gearing make.
Go to the exhibition – very good. I particularly liked the drawings of people sheltering in the tube and of miners, both done as an official war artist. Seeing the development of his signature 'reclining figure with extra holes' sculptures was also good. Elsewhere, I also like the two planes currently in the central gallery.
OK, time to go back home. Go to the Vauxhall Bridge rack. There are two young people in official Barclays Cycle Hire t-shirts who are supposed to be helping people. Adjust saddle on a bike (do this before getting it out of the rack and save time), put key in hole, amber light (checking), red light (no!)
Complain about the delay between dropping one bike off and being able to hire another (yes, they say, that should be in the documentation) but I've been at the Tate for nearly two hours.
Try about ten other bikes. No, no, no, no.. etc. One is flashing amber and red, does that mean there's a problem? They don't know.
In fact, they don't know much. They don't have a key of their own between them, so they can't check the site is working, and they don't have a phone to call the helpline. They've been given a t-shirt each, but that's about it. (And this, my friends, is Boris's London for you.)
I try my key in the kiosk that should be able to report your balance and recent journeys (and which was working earlier) but no. Did I make sure I got a green light when I left the bike there earlier? Yes, and – thank ghod – I have the journey printout to prove it. So it's not that.
While I am waiting to see if it's a five minute issue, we see if there is an obvious fault with the one at the flashing station. Ah ha, the rear wheel doesn't freewheel properly.
I forgot to mention this last night – the first bike I tried felt a bit like I was pedalling against the brakes and when I stopped pedalling, instead of carrying on for ages like a good bike should, it slowed down quite quickly. It wasn't until I was on the second bike that I realised that this was a fault rather than an (awful) feature. Sorry to whoever borrows the first one next – if I'd known, I'd have reported it as faulty (easy – you just press a button when its docked).
Give up. Ok, it's walking to Victoria and getting a train. By this point, I have missed the train I would have been able to get had I just walked there from the Tate, grr.
I pass two other racks on the way and try my key at both. It works at neither – one kiosk is stuck in its 'looking up info' display.
Get to Victoria, get train, get home. Try to log into the TfL site: nope.
So try again this morning. Works. First thing I spot is my most recent journey of six:
02 Aug 2010 Baylis Road, Waterloo 09:06 – 09:21 Bermondsey Street, Bermondsey
Erm, I didn't do that! It's only just happened!!
I was going to ring up the helpline (via the 020 number they so helpfully give for people calling from outside the UK, even though you can't be a member without a UK address) anyway about the access charge from Saturday night. It's a bit more urgent now. Get through quickly and get to talk to someone…
.. and notice that two other journeys aren't mine:
30 Jul 2010 Bermondsey Street, Bermondsey 17:36 – 17:55 Stamford Street, South Bank
30 Jul 2010 Baylis Road, Waterloo 09:08 – 09:26 Bermondsey Street, Bermondsey.
There's also a £45 charge for an annual membership on the 30th, WTF?!
Fortunately, my bank doesn't think £45 (or indeed £48) was taken from my account and the helpline reckon they can't see those journeys on my account, but clearly there are Major Issues with the BarclaysCycleHire website.
I don't know exactly where Mr/Ms Annual Member live, but I'd bet it's close to Baylis Road or Bemondsey Street and they live or work at the other. So join Barclays CycleHire and see not only London, but other people's London trips…
I also managed to get them to refund the £1 usage charge from last night. Yes, those emails may well have been delayed in being sent out (L's didn't leave their end until after 2am), but if you had written the date you were talking about, 'Friday', rather than 'today', you'd have saved a quid…
Oh, the problems with the key on Sunday afternoon were apparently widespread. I should have got them to refund the access fee, really, because not being able to use the thing cost me about a pound more (train journey vs bus!)
"Things.. can only get better.. can only get better.." 🙂