Boris Bikes and Free Love
Hailing active dwellers of the metropolis, I trust you’ve all lost your Boris Bike virginity by now. Right? I couldn’t wait to ditch mine. Enrolled on line, got granted a little Barclays Cycle Hire stick and now for a pound a day I’m bang into the scheme. It’s radically changed my M.O. between meetings and engagements. Boris Bikes are perfect to eliminate those numerous pesky 10 and 15 minute hurried walks, transforming them into an angst and helmet free slalom through central London. The bikes are allegedly heavy, but they’re not too bad, (unless you’re dedicated to your blessed stripped down “Fixie”). You can ride side saddle, sort of, as there’s no cross bar. They’re not the most stylish looking affairs, but the juxtaposition of your own garb should get you through. Consider delivering large bunches of lilies, bespoke suiting or multiple umbrella packages as diversions (all three have worked admirably for me).
Docking is particularly gratifying. One thrusts one's machine firmly into the female stocks of the rank. In no time I’d mastered the ‘rolling dock’, lining up the slot on approach and entering the dock without even stopping. Clunk, bump, done. ‘Clunk and breeze’ I call it. After copulating your bike with the rank, the satisfying moment is after seeing the green light flick on; that you’re free again, to turn on your heel and breeze off. It’s the instant crossover that’s brilliant. Cruising along: I’m a cyclist, I’m a cyclist, I’m a cyclist, then clunk, step, turn, I’m a pedestrian, with zero cycling paraphernalia. No helmet, location to remember, worry of theft, or concern over impending ride home. Nothing. It’s like having the transport equivalent of casual sex in a utopic free-love society. Boris’s Clunk and Breeze scheme is marvellous.
There is a drawback however. It was hammered home at a most inconvenient juncture. Show one, first thing on Men’s day of LFW, the much vaunted and highly exciting Topman Design show. I was reporting for Grazia Daily and copy needed to be posted immediately after. Making up lost minutes from Holborn to the Royal Opera House in the bright sunshine of the last day of summer, I boarded my cyan and navy blue liveried charge, thinking I would just make the show, (a dash of adrenaline is always a bonus). A Ferragamo blazer, maroon suede Guccis and oversized liver spot Persol 009’s were working well as a momentary cycle chic. Having checked dock locations before hand, I had two options to park for my Bow Street destination. Drury Lane the nearest, was full. Nay bother. A swift pedal round the corner to Tavistock Street, and dagnabbit, another full rack. You can tell in a heart beat the rank is full, but still I rode slowly past, disbelieving the full capacity. The bottom of Bow Street was full too, and even had anxious people prowling, encumbered with bikes, scanning for prospective takers. There’s nothing you can do. I couldn’t ditch the contraption or park it in the Opera House foyer. One’s plan was well and truly scuppered. I thought of my bike and a vacant dock and the words of Harry Flowers in Performance rang true. “United we stand, divided we’re lumbered". Properly lumbered.
The Topman show was excellent. I’m told, as I never saw it. I spent the duration orbiting the Opera House hoping in vain that a slot would come good, like a nonce looking to snag a drunken straggler at a wedding. As a fashion bod, there’s nothing worse than missing a show. Everyone knows what happened moments ago, except you, and it is never to be repeated. I was forced to watch the video with the IT nerds and to pretend have seen it. I think I got away with it by interviewing the creative director and getting him to fill in the blanks. Blogging, eh? Who’d have thought it’d be such a graft.
Although my love affair with Boris bikes continues, it is without that first innocent flush of thinking had discovered true West End freedom, completely without the bind of responsibility. The spectre of not being able to jettison your ride lurks, adding to the rush one gets from weaving and speeding through heavy traffic in Savile Row bespoke laden with a cache of important footwear or confectionary. Docking is still a guilty metaphor I enjoy whenever I can get it. Sometimes I go out and dock just for the sake of it, without a reason for the journey. Sometimes at night when slightly inebriated. There’s always the risk factor though, and yet more poignant lyrics from Mr. Flowers ring true. What’s that thing you say Harry? The other thing? “At the death, who’s left holding the sodding baby?”