As I mentioned in an earlier post, I will rent a bike from On Your Bike in Birmingham, but unfortunately they are closed Sunday and Monday, which will be the day before and the day that I return to the US. So if I want to get around in Birmingham that Sunday, I’ll need to use the Bromptom Bike Hire scheme for my transportation.
There was a little hitch registering, however, and it’s related to the same hitch that made it difficult to rent from On Your Bike. When registering at On Your Bike, the form wanted me to supply a UK phone number. Of course I tried supplying a fake UK number, but I could never guess the formatting correct. Did I need the leading 0, did I need spaces, etc? I ended up contacting On Your Bike by phone and email and was assured they were holding a bike for me.
The Brompton Bike Hire registration form had a convenient check box for non-UK phone numbers, but the form was a little too helpful. It kept trying to fill out my city, state and postal code based on my street address. As I live on Saint Paul Street, however, it kept trying to move me to Saint Paul, Minnesota. It was only when I entered my entire address—street address, city, state and zip into Address Line 1—that it was happy, automatically filling in my city, state and zip (5+4) into the appropriate fields.
When it came time to enter the billing information for my credit card, however, the going got tougher. Again it wanted my billing address, but this time it did not try to decipher the other fields based on my street address. The only pull-down menus that appeared were generated from Safari, based on the information the browser had stored for me in my address book. There was no pull-down menu for state (the form actually said county) or country. Safari supplied United States, but then I got this error:
Sage Pay returned an MALFORMED status. The POST was Malformed because "3147 : The BillingState field is required."
I changed country code to US and got the same error. So I used the contact us form on the Brompton Bike Hire website to send a help request, but the form required I supply a UK phone number. Luckily I was able to guess the proper formatting based on the suggested formatting displayed in the field. Unluckily, I pressed the I Am Not A Robot button at the beginning of my message composition and waited too long. I then then had to reassure CAPTCHA that I was a human being by clicking those pictures out of a set of eight that depicted a store front. Fortunately, I was up to the task, but I never received a reply.
Then I thought I would contact Brompton Bike Hire through their facebook page, but the link on the website sent me to a page not found message from facebook. Sigh. Today, however, I tried changing the country code to USA and hey presto, I was able to send £5 via credit card to register for an account. (I had earlier tried not including any country code, but then I realized the credit verification would fail as I would be claiming to be a UK resident.)
I’m not a valid user yet, however. I must next do a £10 bank transfer from which future rental payments will be deducted. I have to feed the kitty, in other words.
By registering as a leisure user, I had to pay the £5 annual fee. Frequent users pay a £25 annual fee, but leisure users hire a bike for £6.50 per day, while frequent users pay only £3.50 per day. There’s no hourly hire.
You request a bike online or by text message and you’ll get a text with the code needed to open the bike locker. Users can take the bike to work or home—they’ll keep getting charged until they return it. You send a text when you want to return the bike and will again receive a text to open the bike locker. Bikes can be returned to any locker.
Brompton Bike Hire has lockers in locations surrounding London (which is serviced by Santana Cycles, formerly Barclays Bike Hire), Portsmouth, Southampton, Manchester, Bristol, Exeter, Peterborough, Norwich, Reading, Stoke-on-Trent and Birmingham.
I’m looking forward to using the bike hire, and I’m glad I started this process more than a month before leaving.
UPDATE: I had searched for a Brompton Bike Hire app and couldn’t find one, but checking the website I found a link to the app. While trying to get the free app, however, I was told it was not available from the US app store. iTunes asked would I like to change stores and then asked me to enter my Apple ID, which I did. Then I was told my ID was not valid at the UK app store and would I like to change stores? Sigh.