Help Londoners find a name for their bikes
comment 6 Written by on July 30, 2010 – 4:42 pm


London gets its own bike scheme today. Finally. Hurrah. It’s modelled on the Bixi here in Montreal, and for that reason I wrote a comparative piece for the Guardian today: In Montreal’s tracks.

There’s a lot of cynicism floating around right now, but I have no doubt they will catch on. Londoners are, by nature, a cynical bunch and put us up against an in-your-face corporate sponsorship deal and we see red. Or, worse, Barclays blue. Barclays Blue sprayed all over the Barclays Cycle SuperHighways. Yuck. There is probably truth in the reports that blue was chosen before the sponsorship deal was struck, but, coincidence or not, it’s still stomach turning.

I appreciate that sponsorship money is important, but TFL and Boris struck a lame deal. They should have insisted they were called the Barclay’s XXsomethingXX, ie give them a very strong association, but not let them take over completely. Barclays Cycle Hire is not just unimaginative, it’s devious. No one is going to call the bikes, ‘Cycle Hire’. The word Barclays will always have to be used.

“I am just going to hop on my Barclays bike”, “I’ll be with you in as soon as I’ve jumped on a Barclays.” Sounds rubbish. Will it catch on? Maybe it will have to…

I kind of like the idea of creating a ‘nickname of the people’. We come up with a snappy alternative, circulate it round the net, then get it into common parlance. It’s possible. A bit like we call the London Underground, the Tube. All we need is Twitter and a good hashtag – #newnameforLondonbikes #dontsaybarclays

Someone on a blog somewhere suggested the CyLon. I like that. I could even handle the Barclays CycLon. But that’s a brand name, rather than a nickname.

As for nicknames, so far there is a lot of talk of ‘Boris bikes’. Bet Boris loves that. Bet Ken doesn’t.  (For those who don’t know: Boris is the current mayor, behind this flashy launch. Ken is his arch-rival  and the former major, who really set the wheels rolling on this scheme.)

People are complaining that we don’t have a snazzy name like the Paris Velib, but as I have just learnt: Velib is heavily funded by JC Decaux, the billboard company. They don’t get to brand the bikes in return, instead they get extra ad space all around town.

Above is a picture of me  on my Bixi. It’s not a great quality snap, but I think you will note it is not coloured by sponsorship. It has, instead, a nice tint of rose. Or is that just me? Ah, I love my Bixi. I will miss it when I’m gone.

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6 Responses to “Help Londoners find a name for their bikes”

  1. I rode one for the first time today and they are very cumbersome and people have begun to refer to them as Bank Tanks!

    By Paul Burrows on Jul 30, 2010 | Reply
  2. Ha, I really like that one. Thanks Paul.

  3. I’m looking forward to trying these when I get back to London, but agree ‘Barclay’s Cycle Hire’ is horrendous.

    Bank Tanks is not a bad nickname, it’s just a shame that such a positive development will always be tainted with resentment and cynicism (in true British style) because of a poorly conceived name.

  4. Cheers Steve. Advertisers and sponsors are always going to push their luck, but the City of London seems to have just rolled over and taken it. I think the greed has backfired on Barclays. London cynicism is unavoidable, but surely it could have minimised with a name we could have been proud of. Greedy banks, eh? Who would have thought it?

  5. The bike riding is a great and enjoyable experience in the tunnels and streets of London. It is a good place to do biking activities and has wonderful bikes to ride on. The Bixi bicycle is a good one to ride in old Montreal.

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