Santas skip sleighs for London's bike-share scheme

Here's a little bit of holiday cheer brought to us via YouTube by the London-based FreshNetworks social media company. It shows a group of Santas swooping in on London to ride the city's new bike-share system like so many Valkyries in a Wagner opera.

Launched just four months ago, the bike-share program is already a big part of many Londoners' lives. If they're not using one of the 5,000 bicycles for commuting or running an errand, they see them on the streets weaving through traffic.

The system has become known as “Boris Bikes” for Boris Johnson, London's current mayor. Ironically, it was his predecessor Ken Livingstone who laid the groundwork for the bike-share program and the Barclays financial services company that paid good money to put its name on the bike-share system.

In spite of early opposition in some quarters, that bike share system has proved very popular, according to The Guardian newspaper.

People used the bikes for errands and commuting 1.8 million times between July and December, and 108,000 had signed up as members of Barclays Cycle Hire as of Dec.1.

Although anyone can rent a bike, the easiest way is to buy a membership and simply use a “key” that unlocks the bikes for use. Short trips of 30 minutes or less are free, while longer trips are charged on a sliding scale.

Eventually, about 8,000 bikes will be available at docking stations across central and eastern London. The bikes and docking kiosks are built in Canada by Bixi, which also operates Montreal's system.

The new bike-share system in the Washington DC area also uses equipment manufactured by Bixi.

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