Thursday, 20 October 2011

Meet the Managers - the answers

A very interesting discussion took place online on Tuesday evening, with questions ranging from specific docking stations to redistribution to, of course, the bells! Read the full discussion here, and if your question wasn't answered on the night, the managers have promised to update the page over the next couple of weeks with more answers.

Monday, 17 October 2011

Meet the Managers - what are your questions? - and other Boris updates

According to the Press Association, the latest fans of Boris bikes are the Duke and Duchess of Cambridge, who use them for short trips around the capital. So if you're undocking near Kensington Palace, you never know who might have been sitting on that saddle ahead of you.

It's also reported that Wandsworth Council are consulting residents on where up to 60 docks could be sited in their borough by 2013. This is a great idea as the bikes will actually be sited where people want them rather than where the council happen to have a bit of free pavement. If you're in that borough email with your suggestions.

The big news of this week of course is the Meet the Managers online Q&A forum tomorrow (Tuesday) from 19.00-20.30. What questions will you be posing? I've already sent in my submission by email, as below. It would be good to know what other issues users have.

Dear Sir or Madam,

Thank you for the email about the 'Meet the Managers' online discussion on Tuesday. I have been blogging about Boris bikes at and contribute regularly on the Boris bikes forum

I think the scheme is very good, and am appreciative that some of the technical glitches are being ironed out.

My main questions relate to bike availability and docking stations:

1. What is being done to tackle the gaps in provision of docking stations and bikes in major business and tourist areas, notably around Green Park / St James Park / Parliament Square?

2. What is being done to improve permeability, especially where docking stations are situated on one-way streets?

3. Can provision of docking stations be improved at rail stations other than Waterloo? Kings Cross / St Pancras is of particular concern.

4. Is it possible to simplify the casual hire procedure? I am often called on to assist at terminals by tourists who find it confusing.

5. The major obstacle to better cycling in London is the road network which is poorly designed for safe cycling and lacks separate space for cyclists. Is Barclays Cycle Hire actively addressing these issues with TfL and the Mayor?

I look forward to reading a report of the discussion.

Wednesday, 12 October 2011

Bikes on the Bridge, and Meet the Managers

Two little snippets of news today ...

Firstly, LCC are organising another cycle protest on Blackfriars Bridge tonight, meeting at 5.45pm on the south side of the bridge. LCC have released new plans for the bridge, with much better provison from pedestrians and cyclists. Hope to see lots of blue bikes there this evening.

Secondly, Barclays Cycle Hire are running an online 'Meet the Managers' forum next Tuesday (18 October), 7-8.30pm. If you're a member you've probably had an email about it, but take part if you can, there are a lot of issues about availability, dock location, and road safety, which need asking.

Friday, 23 September 2011

More Boris bikes in south London

South London Press has reported that Lambeth council is pushing for Brixton and Clapham to be included in plans to extend the Boris bikes zone in 2013. If true, this could be great news for south Londoners, who currently are poorly served compared to their northern friends. Having just moved to Herne Hill, I'd love to see the bikes appearing all over Lambeth and Southwark in the next few years.

Friday, 9 September 2011

Around the Royal Parks on a Boris bike - part 2

In part 1 we looked at Green and St James's parks, so now let's take the shared cycle/pedestrian route through Wellington Arch and over to Hyde Park. This route is a great way to get to Hyde Park, but what it really needs is better marking. Especially when crossing into the park the faded green paint just isn't clear enough, and often crowds of pedestrians obstruct your route through, not realising it's a cycle lane.

Unlike the central parks I previously reviewed, cycle routes and provision of docking stations are good in Hyde Park. Since the start of the scheme I've noticed that, at weekends especially, Hyde Park is awash with blue bikes. Rotten Row, New Ride, West Carriage Drive, North Carriage Drive, the Broad Walk and Serpentine Road are all good cycle routes, and enable you to either circle the park or cross it without obstruction.

So what improvements could Hyde Park make? Provision of bikes will I think be the major issue, as, sadly, neither new docks nor extensions seem to be provided for in phase 2. The second issue, one which relates to the scheme as a whole, is the tortuous procedure for acquring a bike through casual use. Hyde Park is a tourist hotspot, so on a nice day queues form at the terminals for casual use. The current system is unclear and requires your payment card to be inserted twice if not more. If you are a frequent park visitor like me, you will no doubt have been called on many times to explain the system to confused tourists. The complexity of the system is a major barrier to better useage of the bikes, I hope it will be tackled.

Let's cross West Carriage Drive now into Kensington Gardens. The main cycling routes through Kensington Gardens are Albert Approach Road to the south, Mount Walk through the park, and the Broad Walk on the western edge past the palace. Mount Gate is currently being reworked to provide better access for cyclists and pedestrians. And a recent innovation is the new cycling route on the south side of the palace. But connectivity is the main problem in the Gardens, as you can't do a proper loop without being forced out onto busy main roads, Bayswater Road to the north or Kensington Gore to the south. Opening up North Walk for cycling should be a priority, at the moment another of those stern signs strictly warns you off.

One potentially very pleasant route to take right through the parks would be to undock at Black Lion Gate, go south on the Broad Walk, turn onto Mount Walk, cross West Carriage Drive onto Rotten Row, then head into Green Park through Wellington Arch, down Constitution Hill and along the Mall in the direction of Admiralty Arch. I'm afraid you have to negotiate Trafalgar Square to find a docking station, please TfL/Serco, can we have a dock at St James's Park?

In part 3 we'll go north to the Regent's Park. In the meantime, enjoy this picture of a Boris bike taking a break by the Serpentine.

Sunday, 28 August 2011

New City docks

Cyclists in the City has a useful map of the proposed new docks, at this stage, for phase 2 of the cycle hire scheme in the City of London. A useful comparison is the aspirational phase 2 map obtained by the Green Party.

It's unlikely to satisfy demand, especially with extra commuting from the new docks in Tower Hamlets, but at least it's an indication that the City is starting to take cycling seriously.

Thursday, 25 August 2011

Around the Royal Parks on a Boris bike - part 1

London is notable for its fabulous green spaces, and probably the best of all are the spacious and relaxing Royal Parks, providing a welcome bit of breathing space in our busy city.

So today I set off on my trusty Boris bike (and with my camera) to see just how accessible and enjoyable the parks are to cyclists. Today, I'm focusing on the most central of the parks, St James's and Green parks.

Entering the parks through Admiralty Arch is a real joy, and the Mall is wide enough for cyclists and traffic not to annoy each other. And for those wanting their own space, the north side of the Mall has its own cycle lane (which doubles up as a coach and carpark on certain days, and I have to admit is frequently closed). Cycling is not allowed within St James Park, but the park is small and can be circled quickly by turning onto Birdcage Walk. So, do I stop for a visit to Buckingham Palace, or perhaps a coffee at Inn the Park? Neither, because now the first big problem presents itself - there are no docking stations at all nearby. You can see the problem if you look on a map of docking stations; here, for example. See that big hole around St James's Park? I contacted Royal Parks as long ago as last year to ask what was being done, and was told a proposed docking station on the Mall had been abandoned due to objections. I can only hope the Parks authority revisits this, as some of the nicest parts of London, for tourists and locals alike, just aren't accessible at the moment.

Round into Green Park and a lovely cycle lane takes you up Constitution Hill to, at last, a popular docking station at Wellington Arch. But a second problem now becomes apparent, as there is nowhere else to go by bike in Green Park. The park desparately needs a route round the northern edge, and the wide avenue on the east of the park ought to be opened up to cycling. At present a sign sternly warns against cycling there, despite the fact that it would be an ideal shared space. Green Park tube station (on the north side of the park) is currently being redeveloped, and when finished will include cycle hire docks. But where exactly would one go on a bike from there? The only option, unless new routes open up in Green Park, is to go out onto Piccadilly, hardly an inviting prospect!

This is one of my favourite parts of London, but it's a missed opportunity at the moment for good Boris biking. Boris himself has called for more access for cyclists in parks, let's hope the park authorities are listening.

Next time, Hyde Park, but for now, the very first picture of a Boris bike to appear on this blog!

Wednesday, 24 August 2011

Boris bikes go on holiday

I've just been reading about Ian and Tom's Boris bike adventure in Paris. What a great advert for the bikes, and the photos are fantastic. Well done guys! Where next?

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.

Sunday, 7 August 2011

Blackfriars Road - good news for Boris bikers?

This evening I took a ride to the newest docking station at Southwark tube station. Actually it's two docking stations; the one behind the station has opened already, the one directly on Blackfriars Road is nearly ready but hasn't been activated yet. I docked in the active one, up a few steps which is slightly disconcerting but entirely manageable. On a Sunday evening nothing much was going on, though I imagine there'll be plenty commuter traffic on weekdays, especially when station 2 opens. Considering south London is dreadfully served by cycle hire, it's rather odd that TfL have focused so heavily on supplying docking stations so close to Waterloo. No other mainline station has had such treatment yet. It would be interesting to know why.

Just a couple of hundred metres further north on the same road is, of course, Blackfriars Bridge. The latest skirmish in the 'Battle of Blackfriars' was last Friday evening when an LCC-organised flashride brought the bridge to a standstill. Not a few Boris bikes took part. The paradox is that these beautiful new bikes have the potential to change London into one of Europe's great cycling cities, but transport planners remain intent on prioritising motorised transport over cyclists or pedestrians. Are novice cyclists really going to pedal over the new Blackfriars bridge, with its extra lanes of traffic and increased speed limits? The battle isn't over yet, but with the new station due to open on 3 December, time is running short.

The other dock I've got my eye on is Cheapside. It's there, it's big, but it still isn't active. Watch this space.

And if you're wondering, on a Boris bikes blog, where are the pictures, my camera is currently broken. Images coming soon we hope!

Thursday, 28 July 2011

Big news for Boris bikes

Maybe it's because of the run up to the Boris bikes first birthday, but there's a lot to report today.

Firstly, Boris Johnson has announced a continuing deal with Barclays to finance a western extension of the scheme, in addition to the phase 2 eastern extension already well publicised. An initial report on this is in today's Evening Standard, and here in TfL's own words. This is great news, and hopefully more details of the particulars of the expanded scheme will emerge soon.

Secondly, the Battle of Blackfriars Bridge seems to be reaching a critical phase. The particulars of this debate are well covered elsewhere (Cyclists in the City for example) but when all four parties on the London Assembly are agreed that the layout and speed limit of the scheme need reconsideration, it is surely madness for TfL to push ahead with construction. London Cycling Campaign are leading a cycle flash mob tomorrow at 6pm from the south side of the bridge; if you're a Boris biker, ring your bell.

More prosaically, some big dock developments are in the offing. Soho Square now has an expanded dock (according to the TfL status page, I've not seen it). A large dock on Cheapside in the City of London is close to completion, replacing the short-lived and smaller dock on the opposite side of the road. An even larger dock (dare we call it a megadock?) is almost ready in the space above Southwark tube station, which will provide much-needed extra capacity south of the river.

It's clearly a critical time for cycling in London, and Boris bikes (whether or not you're a fan of Boris) are leading a real transformation in the way Londoners get around. It would be great to see this site as somewhere people can share views and opinions on the bikes.

Monday, 25 July 2011

I love Boris Bikes

Welcome to the blog! It's almost a year since Barclays Cycle Hire went live across central London. Has it been a success? Yes, Boris bikes are everywhere, and cycling in London has more media coverage than ever. And now we're set for a phase 2 expansion into Tower Hamlets and beyond.

But cycling in London still isn't great, and there's a long way to go to catch up with our European neighbours in terms of creating streets which are calm, cycle and pedestrian friendly, clean, green and healthy.

On this blog you'll find news of Boris bikes in the media, of cycling developments in London, of new docks, new cycle lanes, and of course some comment on cycling and traffic policy in London. So watch this space ...