London: Rent a bike for nearly nothing American tourists can now use their credit cards to rent one of about 5,000 bicycles kept in automated racks posted at 352 spots around the city. Rates start at one pound. Budget Travel Monday, Dec 6, 2010, 10:28 PM A Boris bike. (Sean O'Neill) Budget Travel LLC, 2016

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dec 06 2010

London: Rent a bike for nearly nothing

A Boris bike. (Sean O'Neill)

As of late last week, visitors to London can now rent bicycles in the city center for as little as one pound for a 30-minute ride. Since July, about 5,000 so-called "Boris bikes" (named after the mayor) have been kept in automated racks posted throughout the city.

Until now, only local residents were allowed use the two-wheelers. But as of Thursday, you can use your American credit card to unlock a bike, paying a small access fee and an hourly fee. The first half-hour is free.

I tested out the service today, walking up to a kiosk that stood next to a flock of the blue bikes, all painted in the prominent Barclay's bank logos.I used the kiosk's touch screen to request a 24-hour pass. I inserted my American credit card, and £1 was deducted, plus a currency exchange fee for my issuing bank. I then was asked to re-insert my card to finalize the transaction, and this took about 40 seconds. I was given a slip of paper with a code on it. I walked over to the first bike that looked good to me—the one already adjusted to a decent seat height—and punched in the code, unlocking a three-speed.

I biked around for less than a half hour before I re-docked the bike at a different station. After shopping for Christmas cards, I went to a kiosk, and re-entered my credit card. It recognized that I still had many hours left on this pass, and I received a new code, and unlocked a new bike. Because I only biked for less than 20 minutes, I wasn't hit with another charge.

Unlike in many U.S. cities, there are no helmet laws in London. I felt relatively safe riding around, as the traffic congestion charge has reduced the amount of traffic in downtown London.

Finding a bike station is easy. There are 352 docking stations scattered in the city's heart. Print out a free map for routes and bike paths online or pick up a copy from a tourist official. (One catch: You have to be at least 14 years old to ride one of these bikes, and at least 18 to rent one for casual use.)


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Note:This story was accurate when it was published. Please be sure to confirm all rates and details directly with the companies in question before planning your trip.


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