Tuesday, 16 August 2011

Does the City love Boris bikes?

Living and working in the City of London is a great experience, and more so since just over 12 months ago we got a whole new set of shiny blue bikes to get around on.

I thought today I'd do a little review of Boris bikes in the City; many of the issues I'm going to touch on are are just as relevant in other boroughs. And if you think you've read all this before, you probably have, there's been plenty of talk about City cycling on the Cyclists in the City blog and on the Boris bikes forum.

Yesterday the City's newest dock opened on Cheapside. Originally there was smaller dock on the other side of the road, but between then and now the road has been totally remodelled to widen the pavements, and the replacement dock has just reopened. About time you might say, Boris bike docks (like cycle parking) are in short supply around here, considering how many people visit the City for business or tourism every day. In the morning, as commuters arrive, the docks fill; in the evening, vice versa. By mid evening there are usually few bikes to be had, a pity really consdiering that later on, once the traffic has quietened down, it's a good place to cycle. Of course, there is no easy answer to remedy this. Redistribution of bikes would need to be on a huge scale, and reliable, and I doubt that's affordable. With so few people living in the City it would be hard to get any natural inflow of bikes, except brought in by tourists and commuters, who tend to arrive together in the morning. More docks we need, naturally, but the City authorities are understandably cautious about losing valuable pavement space.

But Boris bikes do have one valuable contribution to make. The City's streets are choked with traffic most days; Lower and Upper Thames Street are among the busiest and most polluted roads in London. City workers on Boris bikers are a good reminder to the City authorities that things can be different, and we don't necessarily need to prioritise motor traffic on every road. The political wheels of the City move slowly, but a 20mph speed limit is under consideration, eight new docks are due for construction in the phase 2 expansion (see a map), permeability is improving (Wood Lane has gone two-way and 17 other streets are up for consideration, Cyclists in the City reports), and a Boris bike will take centre-stage at the City Cycle Style event. As someone whose first experience of cycling in London was wobbling down Eastcheap on day 1 of the Boris bikes, I'm hopeful for a better future for cycling in the Square Mile.

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