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Shared bikes make it easy for London Olympics fans to get around

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LONDON – London is famous for its modes of transportation – the Tube, the black taxis, the double-decker buses, and, now, gray-and-blue bikes.

The bikes are a part of London’s bike-sharing program, called Barclays Cycle Hire because of the bank’s sponsorship, which started in 2010. Visitors and residents alike are trying them out as an alternative to what will be a congested public transit system during the Summer Games.

“It’s exciting,” Brittany Ross said of her first day using the bike-share program. “Much better than walking.”

Ross, from South Africa, is one month into her first visit to London. She said figuring out how to pay for and unlock the bike was difficult at first, but it didn’t take long for her and her friends to get the hang of it.

“You get to ride everywhere; you’ve got the little ting-ting,” she said, ringing the bell attached to the handlebars. “It’s a lot of fun.”

And with the recent warm and sunny weather, Ross said she prefers it to the Tube.

“In weather like this, it’s much better,” she said, “because then you don’t get stuck underground.”

To use the bikes, customers pay a small fee to access the bikes for a given amount of time and are also charged based on how long they use a bike. The first half-hour is free, so if users keep trips short and trade bikes at docking stations along the way, they can ride all day without paying a usage fee.

Londoner Harris Decruz works for the London Transit Authority and was hired to provide information for people using the bike share. Until he got the assignment, he’d never used the bike-share program, but he’s been surprised by its success and wants to use it in the future.

“I’m a bit of a convert, if you like,” he said, chuckling.

The biggest concern for riders, Decruz said, is the aggressiveness of London drivers. Use the bike lanes as much as possible, he advised.

“You’ve still got to be vigilant, no matter where you are,” he said.