In the great city of London where its most illustrious bard famously asked "To be or not to be?" we asked ourselves a bit different question. In a way though, the question of "To bike or not to bike" has some similarities to Shakespeare's query. The decision comes down to what appears to be a life or death decision. The traffic in London is so bad and the narrow bike paths leave a bike little enough room to maneuver about, and then they seem at first glance to be ignored altogether when taxis or other motorists are in a hurry.
Not only is the traffic horrific, the cost to drive in the high congestion zones add to the exorbitant parking fees make it a rich man's domain in downtown London. There is a "Congestion Charge" of £11.50 daily for driving a vehicle within the charging zone between 07:00 and 18:00, Monday to Friday. Your vehicle is also subject to the new Emissions Surcharge (also known as the 'T-Charge'). The T-Charge is a daily £10 charge in addition to the £11.50 daily Congestion Charge. There are discounts and exemptions available if you are able to take advantage of them.
We had several areas we wanted to visit, like these and more...
but..., taking all things in to account and remembering that they still drive on the left side, with heavy traffic and that we would need an extra zero or two added to our net worth to afford it, we decided to explore the option of renting Santander bicycles. You can hire a bike from as little as £2 at any of the abundant docking stations around town. There's no need to book ahead of time. You can hire a bike, ride it where you like, then return it to any docking station. For the initial £2 you get 30 minutes of ride time and if you return it to any docking station and wait a few minutes or more, you get as many rides in a 24 hour period to hire bikes for 30 minutes with no additional charges.
We took a bus to the nearest town with bikes and began our Santander bike hire. We experienced a few very tight squeezes between car, taxi, or bus and curb, but for the most part drivers were very courteous and polite (as the British are wont to be) and we avoided any scrapes.
We also discovered London's Cycle Superhighways which provide protected space for cycling on some of London's busiest roads. They currently have eight Cycle Superhighway routes completed and they're creating more. We weren't thumbing our noses at the fancy cars as we sped by at high speed next to those which were paying from £11.50 to £23 to sit in traffic, because, well, that wouldn't be polite. But truth be told, we were a bit smug about it.
We did have one little problem however. When it was time to return our bikes after our last check out, it was a busy time of day and we had to go to a second station to find an empty dock. If there is not an empty spot, Santander Cycles gives a free extra 15 minutes to go to the next closest station. They have a great app which shows where the closest stations are and how many bikes and free docks are available.
Overall, that was the best £2 we've spent in the UK. Santander bikes is a wonderful way to get around and if you're ever in London, I highly recommend it. The answer to the original question in my opinion is both "to be" and "to bike"!
We were happy to be home with our sweet snuggly Zoe and this is where we found her. If you're not familiar with AGA stoves, they're a real treat - they stay on all the time to warm your home and they're ready to cook when you are. Maybe not too practical in Phoenix, but here in England, they make wonderful sense and Zoe and I are both in love with the stove!
Hugs from Teddington! And by the way, we've moved on but I'm behind in blogging. Stay tuned to find out where in the world are the Coffeys2Go...