Page last updated at 21:07 GMT, Wednesday, 10 June 2009 22:07 UK

Tweet around the London Tube strike

By Jamillah Knowles and Harriet Lloyd
BBC News

Photo: Alex Jackson
Another happy journey. Paul picks up a friend for a lift on his bike

Paul Clarke decided the day before the Tube strike to create a social online experiment to help people out.

A motorcyclist and online expert, Paul was formerly the head of strategic proposition at the government's web portal Directgov and has an interest in how people can use information on the web openly and in a smart way.

Putting these skills together he launched a hashtag - Twitter comments on a particular theme - so his friends could get a lift on his bike if the strike had left them stranded.

"The idea came to me at 4pm yesterday," says Paul. "It's an exercise in how fast and how little effort it takes to make something happen in this situation. It has also helped me get a deeper understanding of how social media can work. It's a sort of mashup with my bike and Twitter."

People who use the micro-blogging website and follow @paul_clarke , can send him a message asking him when he might be free to pick them up on his motorbike and drop them off again.

Creative problem solving

It shows that Twitter is not just something for people sitting at a computer but that you can do something really active
Sharon Cooper

Paul is a fan of using online resources for creative problem solving, "I was a bit surprised by how successful this was.

"I was aiming for it to be an exercise, a bit like when I launched the #UKsnow hashtag in February so that people could map and more easily understand what was happening.

"It's been nice to help half a dozen people get around town but what I really wanted to do was inspire creative thinking. Already someone has commented on my blog that I have inspired them, so mission accomplished!"

Paul is an experienced motorcycle rider and reassures his passengers that his bike is sure footed in the city traffic.

Paul says: "I've been exactly on time for each pick up and I know London like the back of my hand.

"Interestingly the very real time thing is not happening - almost all trips were planned at least an hour in advance."

Passenger response

The passenger response has also been very positive. Alex Jackson is a PA, she had a lift into work from an overland train station.

"It's been such a random day! I would have been walking into work from the station, getting soaked in the rain for thirty-five minutes.

"I follow Paul on Twitter so I managed to get a lift. I've never been on a motorbike before but I trust him enough to be safe.

"Reading Paul's Twitter stream you can see that people really like what he is doing, they are saying he should charge for the service! It makes me think of maybe getting a motorbike myself, I'm not a big fan of the tube strike."

Lisa Devaney

director of Hai Media Group, recorded an Audioboo of her experience on the #tweetbike.

Sharon Cooper helps to run a large website, she had a lift on the back of Paul's bike on her way home.

"Paul's a friend so we heard about him setting this up the day before the strike. I have had a hectic day running from meeting to meeting and so my PA contacted him on Twitter to book him for a lift to the train station at the end of the day.

"It's really busy out on the roads today and the traffic was hell so it was great to be out on a bike and much easier to get around the traffic. I would have been an hour on a crowded bus for an hour or taking a walk to the station otherwise.

"I'd probably consider alternatives like using a taxi-bike next time there is a strike. It's been 20 years since I was last on a bike and that was out in the country so it was exciting to get on a bike in the city.

"I think this is the ultimate mashup for Paul as he loves his bike and he loves Twitter and he's been meeting up with his Twitter friends and helping them out.

"It shows that Twitter is not just something for people sitting at a computer but that you can do something really active."

Katie Moffatt
Katie Moffatt made it to her meeting on time by tweeting Paul

Freelance PR consultant Katie Moffatt also managed to hitch a ride with Paul.

"London was gridlocked and I had to get from Marylebone to Farringdon so being on the bike worked really well for getting to my meeting on time," he said.

"With the traffic chaos I had considered cancelling my meeting altogether. He had all the kit for safety from a spare helmet, jacket and gloves. It's a great idea to use Twitter in this way and Paul's a real star for making it work."

Not much online support

Facebook Tube strike search
Facebook shows a selection of groups against the strike

The Tube strike has not received much support online with social networks such as Facebook showing various groups voicing their opposition, along with reactions from people in London on Twitter.

Annie Mole has been running her blog Going Underground for many years and has seen reaction to almost every round of strike action in that time.

"There's been a much bigger reaction to this strike than others with well over 100 comments on various posts on my blog.

"I think because of the current climate with job losses and people taking pay cuts, it seemed to be a real slap in the face for Londoners trying to get into work, for the RMT to be demanding guaranteed pay increases and a promise of no redundancies.

"This was made even worse as there was a new pay deal put on the table and then for the RMT to demand the reinstatement of two sacked Tube drivers.

"Mostly people have been commenting through the blog but I've had some internal memos sent to me from staff.

"The one which I decided to blog was a memo in comic sans font, from the RMT trying to get ASLEF members to join them over the strike.

"Admittedly it's led to more comments about the font used than the content, but I think some people see this as a reflection of how seriously (or not) the RMT are taking the issues.

"Tweetbike's a great initiative and I've definitely see a trend with people distributing more news around on Twitter about which stations are open and where problems are.  I was particularly impressed with BBC Travel Alert's tweets as they've been following Londoners tweets and Twitpics on the strikes and re-tweeting useful observations since the small hours.

"There's probably been the least amount of public sympathy to this strike that I've seen since I started blogging."



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SEE ALSO
Tube strike brings further chaos
10 Jun 09 |  London
Extra services during Tube strike
09 Jun 09 |  London
Mayor accused of playing politics
10 Jun 09 |  London
Workers battle through travel chaos
10 Jun 09 |  London
Are you affected by London Tube strikes?
09 Jun 09 |  Have Your Say


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