Thursday, 1 August 2013

Where next for the bikes?

An article which I did not read at the time discusses the reasons behind the uneven coverage of cycle hire docks in central London and its surrounds.

As docking stations are installed in the latest wave of expansion (partly paid for by the Councils, as the article notes) it is worth asking where future expansion should be planned.

The most obvious central London borough needing docks is Southwark. There are a handful in Bermondsey and Elephant, a couple on the northerly borders of Walworth (Wansey Street is currently closed after the Cuming Museum fire), and a few around Borough and London Bridge. In the current expansion, only three new docking stations will be built in Southwark, to serve the busy London Bridge area. As there is poor rail and tube provision, the best candidates for Boris bikes are probably Camberwell and Dulwich to the south and expanding east through Bermondsey into Rotherhithe and the Surrey Quays to the east. Peckham could also be included. These areas are not too hilly, and adjacent to the current central zone. In neighbouring Lambeth, bikes in Brixton and Loughborough Junction would complement this expansion, possibly as far as King's Hospital Campus on the southern slopes of Denmark Hill. It's not as far-fetched as it may sound, Southwark are already looking into it. However, with fears over funding (the bikes are not, it is often pointed out, self-funding as hoped) such an expansion might be wishful thinking.

If we refer to the Mayor's Vision for Cycling the plans for cycle hire are surprisingly unambitious. p26 mentions a superhub at an unspecified rail station, and expanded docking stations along cycle routes. What this document seems to hint at is that bikes need to be placed where they are going to be used. It is quite obvious that some of the docking stations currently installed, such as in the darkest corners of the Westfield shopping centre, or busy and inaccessible areas in the east of Tower Hamlets, are not the best use of money. A more intense presence of bikes in the central areas (close to stations, in the parks, and along superhighways and the future quietways) surely makes sense.

Another area mooted for expansion is the Queen Elizabeth Olympic Park. Frankly, it was daft not to put in bikes there for the Olympics, as it made the expansion out into Tower Hamlets rather pointless. Future expansion into this area I think will depend on the success of the extended CS2 route, and an urgently needed upgrade of the existing section of CS2 so that Boris bikers can safely move between the Park and central London. Considering the limits on funding, perhaps other areas should have a higher priority.

On a recent trip to Paris I was impressed by the Velib scheme. It is large, covering the whole city, docks are easy to find, numerous and large. Simply counting bikes by eye, it is better used than our own facilities. To rival its success, we need more ambition for our Boris bikes, with a co-ordinated approach which puts bikes where they're needed, and can be used with safety.

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