The London Cycle Hire scheme begins tomorrow, and developers have already filled up the iTunes store with iPhone apps to help us get in the saddle. We've taken a look at the top apps to separate the carbon-fibre forks from the training wheels -- so strap on your helmet, tuck up your trouser legs, and read on.
London Cycle Hire
Simple but effective, this app opens straight to a map showing all the cycle points in the scheme. You have options to view the map in satellite, map or hybrid view, and a button quickly finds your GPS location.
Tap a hire location and a page opens showing pictures of the location submitted by users. This is handy, but it would be helpful to see the street-view shot when user photos aren't available yet. There's also a shortcut to email the developers if you see a mistake in the data, too.
The layout needs some work, however -- long location names cover the text telling you how many bikes are stored at that hire point. Also, this app doesn't tell you how many bikes are available, just how many spaces.
London Cycle: Free Maps & Routes
Although the name overstates the case somewhat -- this app doesn't include maps of London's official cycle routes -- this is the most feature-packed London cycle hire app for the iPhone.
Shortcuts deliver you to your GPS location, or highlight your nearest hire point, and there's also the option to get directions to each location. It doesn't work very well if you enter your own destination -- a search for a location near Old Street led us all the way into Westminster. But if you tap the pins on the map to choose your destination, it works fine.
We could do without the home menu that offers safety and riding tips, and the map isn't the Google Map we've become used to. We'd also like more info on each location, beyond how many spots it has, such as a photo. But this app does get a bonus point for having a cute, detailed icon that looks great on the iPhone 4's high-res screen.
LondonCycle TFL London Cycle Hire Scheme
This app shows a map of cycle hire locations, and also lets you search for street names to see locations nearby. The search needs work, however. You can't search by post code, and it's very picky -- 'Soho' came up with no results, for example. There's a button to find your GPS location quickly, but it has a problem -- if that feature is on, and you do a search, the map is immediately re-centred on you as soon as the search is done.
Once you've found a search that works, you can add it to a list of favourites so you don't have to type your search again.
Considering this app is the only one of the iPhone apps that costs money, we suggest staying away until some of its quirks have been sorted out.