London’s bike share program and other cheapo cycling options
The success of the festival, followed by the announcement that it will become an annual event, cemented the fact that cycling in London is going from strength to strength. And there’s no reason why visitors to the city shouldn’t get in on the action too—there are plenty of options for budding cyclists and serious pros to see the city from two wheels.
Here’s my pick of the most budget-friendly options:
Barclays Cycle Hire Scheme
“Boris Bikes”, as they are widely referred to since London’s mayor, Boris Johnson, launched the Barclay’s Cycle Hire program in 2010, are an accessible and affordable way to make short journeys in London. There are over 8,000 bikes and 500 docking stations across the city where you can collect or drop off your bike.
The “pay as you pedal” option is ideal for visitors who don’t wish to sign up for a membership—simply use a credit or debit card to pay the registration fee (£2 for 24 hours) and off you go. The first half-hour is completely free—after that the price will rise incrementally, from £1 for an hour, to £50 for 24 hours.
Savvy travelers can avoid any cost at all by docking their bike every half an hour and then taking it out again, but that isn’t the most practical strategy if you’re trying to see the city! Keep the bike for two hours and it will cost you a piddling £6, though three hours isn’t such good value at £15.
The main draw to hiring a bike this way is that it’s very convenient—you don’t have too venture far to pick up your bike and you don’t have to drop it off in the same place you started. You can check for the nearest docking/pick-up point and plan routes on the website or by downloading the official app for iPhone or Android.
Long-term bike hire
For those wishing to cycle longer, it’s a better value to get your bike somewhere other than Barclays. On Your Bike in London Bridge has some of the best prices in the city center. 24 hours starts at £18 and you can get a full week for £45. Additional days are just £10 each. Pick one up and follow the Thames Cultural Cycling Tour map to take in London’s key sights. Bargain!
Affordable cycling tours
If you’d rather not hit the roads alone, there are tons of different organized cycling tours worth considering. The London Bicycle Tour Company runs daily tours in central London and the West End from £18.95 for 2.5 hours (and they also rent bikes out from £20 for 24 hours). Fat Tire Bike Tours has a nice selection including a four-hour “Royal London” bike tour for £20 and a sunset River Thames tour for £32.
To get off the beaten track then check out Alternative London, which runs a weekly 3.5 hour bike tour on Saturdays (£20) and a two-hour street art bike tour every Friday (£12). Alternatively, Brake Away Bike Tours has a daily 3.5 hour “Secret London” tour for £18.