A heart-warming story from Transport for London

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It’s not easy telling your customers not to use your service, but that’s what TFL bosses Chris Macleod, Vernon Everitt and others have been doing for the past few weeks.

But as inner-Londoners know, not every form of transport is in lockdown.

The Santander (aka Boris) bike system remains open and I am a multiple key-holder as I think that I, my family and my colleagues should use the bikes rather than tubes and busses. The recent risks from Coronavirus have strengthened my resolve and I’m very grateful for the people who maintain the biking system and the team in Glasgow who take feedback when racks are clogged or empty, ensuring us bicyclists get around effeciently.


The heartwarming story

I now use the bikes for 30-45 minutes exercise a day. On Saturday I cycled round Bermondsey and back over Tower Bridge into the City of London, stopping off to buy some paracetamol at Sainsbury’s Local in Cannon Street. Rather than leaving my bike in the rack, I took the dumb decision to stand the bike on the pavement. I thought Cannon Street was clear, I was wrong. Someone – as I paid for my pills – swiped my bike and by the time I ran out to stop him, he was half way to St Pauls.

The rules are clear, you are responsible for your own bike. The Santander team made it clear I was in it for £94 for the first 24 hours the bike was out and another £206 if it didn’t come back in a week.

I asked for mitigation but expected none. But the following day, seeing that my daily message from Transport for London – who manage  Santander cycles had someone’s name on it, I decided to write back explaining what had happened.

Within 24 hours the matter has been sorted (thanks in particular to those who helped. The money that would have gone to TFL is now going to Wesley’s Chapel. Thanks too to the City of London police who have been really supportive.

The lesson

There will always be tea-leaves who exploit the times, don’t be dumb – as I was dumb- and think because we are in lockdown – that crime goes away. But this isn’t about a petty act of larceny.

It’s about the way TFL (whether in Glasgow or London) dealt with the situation, managing my expectations to nothing and then delivering clemency without fuss. I got a call late last night from a customer service manager.

The lesson’s I’ve learned

  • Be vigilant and obey the rules
  • Be kind

The third lesson is to acknowledge public good. We are focussing this week on a few acts of over-zealous policing and not the many acts of kindness we see from those who are still working on our behalf.

I was not deserving of being let off, I don’t want anyone to think leaving a bike unattended is unacceptable but I think that TFL did the right thing.

The big lesson for me is to do the right thing back.

Boris bike


About henry tapper

Founder of the Pension PlayPen,, partner of Stella, father of Olly . I am the Pension Plowman
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