On Tuesday night I travelled up from Farnborough to a London Java Community event at Skills Matter, which is a fantastic space for the London / Open Source / tech community. My friends and colleagues Simon Maple and (actually now former colleague!) Zoe Slattery were presenting at the event on Enterprise OSGi and Apache Aries, which are increasingly becoming supported in WebSphere Application Server.
(aside: I actually ended up delivering an unplanned/unscripted 5 min lightning talk on MQTT and will post that on my blog if the video appears online)
I’d got to the venue, near the Barbican, via Tube – not an ideal stop to reach from Waterloo, but it worked. On the way back though, Zoe and Simon suggested we take bikes.
Thus, I climbed onto a bicycle for the first time since my second year at university (which more-or-less put me off cycling for a long time, since I was frequently knocked over navigating the Iffley/Cowley roundabout in Oxford, so the plan to cycle between college and student accommodation lasted barely a week). I reckon that’s something like 16 years.
It was actually a really easy ride, and fortunately one of us knew where we were going, so it was all good… and it was mainly downhill. My efforts to repeat the feat the following day (heading from Waterloo to a webOS event in Shoreditch – also a place that’s less easy to reach by Tube) were defeated by heavy luggage, uphill cycling, a poor sense of direction, and a total lack of fitness. I left the bike near Farringdon and took the Tube!
The rental system itself is remarkably smooth, which I appreciated. You need a credit card, there are terminals at every bike rank, and it’s easy to get around London very cheaply. There are “apps for that”, as well, of course, which help you to find the nearest bikes or places to leave them. I was left with a couple of questions – first, how the London cab drivers are “enjoying” the influx of new, inexperienced day cyclists (like myself); and secondly, how practical it would be to carry a cycle helmet in and out of town every day (the signage on the rental terminals do recommend that you “consider wearing a cycle helmet”, and I was certainly wishing I’d been wearing one as I wobbled uncertainly around town).
Overall though, a nice system, and now that I’ve tried it a couple of times, I certainly won’t completely dismiss the idea of riding from place to place in future.