Mayor of London under fire for £500 tandem Boris Bike royal wedding gift

William may have a stylish carriage - but he and Kate are also getting a bicycle made for two

by Simon_MacMichael   April 25, 2011  

William Kate engagement portrait.jpg

Headaches surrounding wedding presents typically involve wondering whether you should ignore the wedding list and buy an individual gift, a dilemma facing anyone who’s left it late and found that everything’s gone except for that £300 espresso machine. Mayor of London Boris Johnson, however, is under attack for plans to give Prince William and fiancée Kate Middleton a £500 tandem ‘Boris bike’ when the pair tie the royal knot this Friday.

When the prince’s parents were married in 1981, they received more than 6,000 gifts, ranging from the grand – a roomful of antique furniture on behalf of the Canadian people to the practical – his and hers pairs of gloves courtesy of the Worshipful Company of Glovers.

Perhaps mindful of the austerity brought about by the recession, William and Kate have reportedly asked that guests make donations to charity in lieu of gifts.

Undeterred, Mr Johnson, ever one to plough his own furrow, is said to be determined to make a gift of the tandem bicycle to the happy couple, but according to the Daily Mail, a row erupted over his initial insistence that the £500 cost be funded by Transport for London (TfL).

In the end, the tab for the bike has been picked up by Serco, the company that operates the Barclays Cycle Hire Scheme.

The Daily Mail quotes a Whitehall source as saying that the gift will help boost the profile of the scheme, adding, “It is typical of Boris to want to give a tandem as a special gift, but TfL didn’t want to pay for it out of public money. They said it would set the wrong precedent and give out the wrong message.”

A spokesman for Mr Johnson commented: “The Mayor is determined to mark the historic event to show London’s support for the happy couple. He is planning additional celebrations and surprises.”

Presumably the recipients won't need a key to access their new bicycle-made-for-two from a docking station, but you do have to wonder when and where they would have the opportunity to use it; the scheme's bikes have just three gears and their weight means that a standard one, let alone a tandem version, would challenge even an experienced cyclist taking it for a spin around some of the climbs in Windsor Great Park, for example.

6 user comments

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When I heard the headline I thought, poor old Boris, his sweet idea snubbed. Got to be better than a toaster or a moose's head or something.

It seems from reading further that perhaps people would have been more pleased had he a) paid for it himself, and b)got a better one. I mean- £500 for a tandem, really, it's going to be made in China by children out of melted down Fiestas.

Go on Boris,give them a Chain Reaction voucher and let them decide.

Big Grin

posted by MrsK [40 posts]
25th April 2011 - 14:15

1 Like

or maybe people thought 'when was the last time a royal was seen on a bike rather than in an aston martin, land rover, bentley etc...
and therefore what a waste of money?'

TheHatter's picture

posted by TheHatter [811 posts]
25th April 2011 - 16:52


I think the idea is quite sweet (if pointless), but I am glad Serco have coughed up rather than TfL.

posted by BigDummy [314 posts]
26th April 2011 - 10:12


The mistake here is applying logic and common sense to any situation involving the royals. Royalty is not a rational institution. The only reason for keeping them is irrational fear - of alternatives, of Europe, of giving the unwashed masses a choice. Fortunately, Boris is just the man for the job when something irrational is required.

posted by handlebarcam [545 posts]
26th April 2011 - 10:33


Fucrying out loud, the man makes 250k a year just from his weekly column at the Telegraph - a salary which he describes as "chickenfeed". If he's so hell-bent on licking royal ass let him shell out the £500 himself? Serco is earning from TfL so it's public money anyway.

posted by kaybee [23 posts]
26th April 2011 - 19:57


Pointless? Are you mental? Its huge PR (for a great cycle scheme) for £500 (which is bugger all in terms of the PR it'll generate). TFL will benefit hugely, Serco will benefit hugely and cycling as a whole will benefit hugely by bikes being more 'in the press' meaning more bums on seats. Quite why TFL are being so miserly is beyond me. Good on Serco for stumping up the cash. I'd happily pay a small tax on my Boris bike use to cover the cost.

Plus the royals won't actually ride it of course (why would they?) so it'll be sold and the money will go to some charity. As is normal for most of these gifts.

I fail to see how its not a good thing all round.

tallsam's picture

posted by tallsam [3 posts]
26th April 2011 - 21:55