Thursday, 29 March 2012

Mayoral Election - candidates reveal policies on Boris bikes

Cycling is becoming a major issue in the mayoral election, largely thanks to the Times 'Cities Fit for Cycling' campaign. Ken Livingstone is the latest to reveal his priorities (in an article which also helpfully compares the policies f the 4 leading candidates). On Boris bikes, he wants to widen access, extend the bikes to new parts of London, and get better value for money. These are all laudable aims, but I think tough to deliver. There have been a number of articles recently lamenting the fact that councils are having to chip in to fund the bikes. But I'd argue in the opposite direction - cycle hire is a new form of sustainable public transport in London, available at a low price to Londoners. I would actively encourage TfL and the boroughs to invest in the scheme, which will help to relieve congestion and pollution in the capital. Compared to major schemes like Thameslink and Crossrail (both of which are also worth investing in) cycle hire costs a tiny sum. So my message to Ken - yes, extend the bikes to new areas, and of course they need more users, but a good scheme costs money, and is worth investing in.

Plenty more information on cycling and the mayoral eelction is available from Londoners on Bikes.

Sunday, 25 March 2012

City cyclists

Just a brief post to flag up the new dock on Monument Street (22 docking points) which is not live yet, but is ready to go soon. With new docks already live on Fore Street and King Edward Street, there has been a welcome increase in capacity in the City of London. Queen Street's expansion is underway, and a new dock should appear on Houndsditch according to plans (though I've not been up there in a while). Still a lack of capacity close to Cannon Street and Blackfriars stations, but things are moving in the right direction.

Thursday, 22 March 2012

Bikes to Surbiton?

A local news report suggests that Boris Johnson, if re-elected, would like to bring Boris bikes to Kingston and Surbiton towards the end of his next term (i.e. 2016). Now a quick look at a map is enough to show that Surbiton is quite a long way from the existing zone. To reach Surbiton the bikes would have to be installed across all of Richmond borough too (remember that so far they haven't even reached Wandsworth). So I'm sceptical, but if true it could indicate a very ambitious phase of expansion to come. Yet as of today there is no commitment even to include Brixton in next year's planned extension - as championed by the Bikes2Brixton campaign. Not to mention the lack of bikes in Camberwell and Bermondsey, both closer to central London than Surbiton. Do I sense a bit of party politics here, as Boris probably has more natural allies in southwest London than in Lambeth and Southwark?

As the mayoral election hots up, an interesting online dicussion on cycling took place on the BBC's blog.

Tuesday, 20 March 2012

Eastern Extension - not over yet

If you have been as excited as I by the new bikes in east London (and to a lesser extent towards Westfield in the west) it seems more is to come. I don't know for certain, but it may be a second wave of docks could go live soon, whether individually or as a block.

New docks I know of are:

Mudchute Station
Kingsway (Aldwych end, 32 docks)
Queen Street (an extension of the existing dock)
Limerston Street, Chelsea (18 docks)
Mile End Road

There is also the mystery of the Victoria and Albert Museum, where the groundwork was done for docks months ago, but nothing has ever appeared since. Might this dock finally be built?

The good weather certainly encourages cycling. I've got a ride on Isle of Dogs organised with friends for Monday, so I hope to report back from there.

UPDATE - I forgot of course College Green (properly known as Abingdon Street Gardens I think) with 21 new docking points.

UPDATE 2 - Bad news that Green Park dock, having been in service only about a month, has been taken out of use again temporarily. And can TfL please fix the dock at Strata, E&C??

Wednesday, 14 March 2012

Archbishop and Boris bikers support sustainable transport

This morning Dr Rowan Williams, the Archbishop of Canterbury, joined Boris bikers and other cyclists at Lambeth Palace to press the case for cycling as part of the Church's 'Shrinking the Footprint' campaign. The initiative shows that Boris bikes can be part of a sustainable and green future for our planet. See the full press release here.

Tuesday, 13 March 2012

New dock for Embankment

A really quite large dock, named Somerset House, has opened on Embankment, right under Waterloo Bridge, on the Thames side of the road (unusually). By my count it had 41 docking points. I docked there this afternoon. It adds much needed capacity to a busy part of the riverside.

Go West - part 2

Last night I cycled the western extension with a friend from the Boris Bikes forum. And we took pictures!

Westfield Southern Terrace

Our starting point was Notting Hill Gate, recently expanded to take more bikes. The streets of Notting Hill are far from easy to navigate, but we passed the new Ladbroke Grove dock and made our way towards the shopping centre. Getting to Westfield on a bike isn't easy - a shared-use facility to help cross towards the Shepherds Bush tube is so cleverly disguised as a pavement, it's not very suitable for bikes. Eventually however we docked at Southern Terrrace. It's a sizeable dock (like all the docks at Westfield in fact) but it's not especially easy to find. Good for those who will use it regularly, but probably hard to locate for casual users and tourists. We then walked round the estate to locate the other docks.

Eastern Access Road -
where Boris bikes go to die?
Right at the back of the centre is the Eastern Access Road dock. Its unglamorous name says it all really. It's near a small industrial estate, not near any of the main entrances to the shops, and not a dock you would ever stumble over. Most of the bikes there look like they were put in last Thursday and haven't been used yet. I pity the Boris bikes which end up in this godforsaken location.

Much better are Ariel Way and, most glitzy of all, Library Corner, which is right by a main entrance to the complex. These docks will make far more sense once the western extension of the scheme comes to fruition in 2013 and can be approached from the west, rather than the current rather circuitous route from the east or south. A fifth dock which appears on the map, close to Ariel Way, has not yet been constructed.

Westfield glamour - Library Corner
There are a lot of cycle paths around Westfield itself, though they seem underused. Making Westfield a more cycle-friendly area would really involve sorting out better routes into and out of the complex. The addition of the cycle hire stations looks a bit too much like an afterthought, stuck in on the periphery.

Our western odyssey concluded with a trip back east out of Westfield, this time via an underpass, then a meander around the residential streets west of Holland Park. Finally we passed the new Russell Gardens dock and docked in Hansard Mews (one end of which is no entry - I look forward to the 'except cycles' sign being added).

Today Abbotsbury Road dock seems to be live on the map, so that's another for the western area, but as my earlier post suggested, there probaby aren't enough docks in this area yet. Also someone needs to sort out the cycling infrastructure in this part of London to make it more appealing to a wider cycling public. The one-way streets and speeding traffic are a barrier to all but the most experienced and determined Boris bikers.

Saturday, 10 March 2012

Boris Bikes go east (and west) and more to come

Since my last post the new eastern zone has gone live, adding just over 100 docking stations to the total (548 stations are live tonight). Nine of these were in the west, and a handful of central docks went live, so that means that just under 90 docks are so far available in Tower Hamlets.

No big meltdown happened, partly because the new docks aren't getting much use yet. It'll be interesting to see what pattern of use develops, but if central London is a good model, bikes should move in and out of the Canary Wharf area according to the rush hours.

I also understand the saddles of the new bikes have been redesigned so you don't slide forward quite so much. I was on one today, it takes a bit of faith to believe it, but quite possibly. I won't be drawn on bells :)

Of course, the extension / intensification is not complete. The dock at Mudchute is yet to go live. A large dock west of Stepney Green on CS2 is complete but not live. The expansion of Queen Street is not complete. The long-awaited dock at Parliament (at the west edge of College Green) is under construction, and looks to have 20 docking points.

 If anyone was given a map of the docking points, it is unfortunately not to be trusted! A number of docks are wrongly sited (e.g. Cheapside), some which do exist are not shown (both stations on Bishop's Bridge Road), and some which do not exist are marked (anyone seen docks on Houndsditch or Holland Villas Road?). Nil points to TfL for this particular product, and I think it shows that, apart from internet-based resources, it's difficult to get accurate information about dock locations. Even the maps on the terminals are not always accurate.

Wednesday, 7 March 2012

Happy E-Day

Tonight their are 444 live docks. By tomorrow I hope there will be over 600. No more comment for now, but hope you enjoy tomorrow if you're cycling. I'll be out in the east.

Sunday, 4 March 2012

'I love Boris bikes' - Queen

Okay, maybe not her exact words, but it is reported that the Queen has given her seal of approval to the bikes during a conversation with Mayor Johnson. We know Will and Kate have used the bikes; if anyone sees an elderly but well-dressed lady cycling in the area of the Mall, please report back.

I'm sure it's going to be a week full of BoBi news - more anon.

Friday, 2 March 2012

Go West

While the main focus next week will be on the eastern extension, don't forget Boris bikes will be rolling out in the direction of the Westfield shopping centre in Shepherds Bush. After a tip-off from Ruzzi on the Boris bikes forum I headed off on my Boris around Holland Park and Notting Hill to see what's coming. Here's the docking stations I identified:

Abbotsbury Road (terminal installed, no docks yet)
Hansard Mews (17 docks)
Ladbroke Grove (21)
Lansdowne Walk (21)
Russell Gardens (24)
Walmer Road (24)

None are yet active. Obviously, unlike Camden, they will all be switched on next week.

In addition Notting Hill Gate has already been extended, and there are (I'm told) four docking stations actually at the shopping centre, some quite large.

So that's at least 10 new docking stations going west. We wait till 2013 of course for the real push west.

I have a few reservations of course! The density of docking stations (in the Holland Park residential areas) is quite low, so I can easily see them simply emptying in the morning like so many other areas. A number of streets earmarked for docks seem not to have got them (local objections maybe?) I hope Boris biking in this area will really take off, and new docks will continue to go in. From next week, we'll begin to see.

Extra news: a few other docks now seem to be live on the map - New Fetter Lane (Holborn Circus), Fore Street (near Guildhall), Arlington Road (in Camden Town). Keep them coming ...

LATE NEWS: an interesting feature on the IanVisits blog about a new map of docking station locations on Isle of Dogs

Thursday, 1 March 2012

E minus 7

Happy St David's Day, marking of course just one week to go until the eastern extension of cycle hire goes live. And not only east london will benefit, I've recently seen a new dock on Ladbroke Grove, and also on Bishop's Bridge Road in Bayswater.

Maybe it's the good weather, but I'm sure I'm seeing more Boris bikes on the streets these days. The opening of the extension could mark a real 'coming of age' of cycling in London, pushing it from a minority pleasure to the mainstream. LCC and others are organising the biggest bike ride ever seen in London on 28 April, another great day to celebrate and put pressure on politicians for safer roads better designed for cyclists.

A rather odd argument seems to have sprung in a few papers about the fact that councils are contributing to the funding of cycle hire. Maybe I'm wrong, but I think this is exactly what my council should be doing - investing in public transport infrastructure which is safe and sustainable. Tower Hamlets will be putting this to the test next week. Let's hope the sun is shining.