Re-cycling difficulties in London

By Nic Price on 3 September 2010 — 1 min read

Serco staff struggle to cope with the overflow bike parking near Waterloo Station by London’s South Bank.

They were having to free up some docking stations so people could check their bikes in.

The surplus bikes are then loaded on to a lorry and distributed to empty or depleted cycle hire locations around the capital.

Having used the cycle hire scheme successfully on several occasions, yesterday evening I found I couldn’t get a green light to release a bike.

The helpful Serco operative checked my balance with me on the terminal and it was fine. However, I couldn’t release a bike, even though I tried putting my key in about 10 docking stations.

Today I enquired by phone and was told that you have to wait 5 minutes after getting a red light before you can try for a green light, due to the configuation of the computer system running the scheme.

The helpdesk operator was surprised I wasn’t aware of the 5 minute rule. I said in that case I was equally, if not more surprised, that the Serco contractor wasn’t aware of it either.

Better communication needed all round.

And much, much more user research, modelling and usability testing needed for systems like this (and yes, that is an offer of my professional services!).

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  • Top tip about the E.M. Forster book, will add to my reading list.

    To add insult to injury the computer system that didn’t let me take a bike out activated and charged me for a 24 hour period anyway…

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