Thursday, 15 November 2012

Higher Fares - Some Further Comments

Last week it was reported that Boris bike access charges will double from January 2013. There is some further useful comment on the folly of this decision on the Two Wheels Good blog.

I was contacted by the Evening Standard to get my view on funding and charges for the bikes. My suspicion is that when the edict came from City Hall to install the scheme across London they believed that the funding secured from Barclays plus the charges would cover the costs to finance the scheme. Now that this has not been the case, charges are rising to cover losses.

Some might argue that Boris should renegotiate a better deal with Barclays. I think it might be too late for that now, and actually it somewhat misses the point. Why should a major transport initiative be relyng on private sponsorship to make it viable? Exactly the same point can be made incidentally, for the Emirates Airline.

If TfL and the mayor are serious about introducing bikes across London to enable as many Londoners as possible to use them to get about cheaply, then they need to be properly financed from a central transport budget. Let's be clear - Boris bikes cost peanuts compared to Crossrail, or the reconstruction of London Bridge Station, or a new Northern Line to Battersea. Their initially low cost made them instruments of potential social transformation. But at £2 a go, why not take a bus, it'll be cheaper, or a tube, hardly more expensive. When the borough of Tower Hamlets, one of London's most deprived, agreed to put funds towards the bikes, did they realise a year later prices would be rising to rob local users of the cheap transport they had been promised?

If Boris biking is to have a future it should be funded centrally from a London-wide transport budget, not by dubious deals with commercial sponsors. Fare increases should be kept in line with other modes of transport, and the scheme affordable to less affluent Londoners. If not, I fear our love affair with the Boris bike might be over.

Sunday, 11 November 2012

Remembrance Sunday

Today we fell silent to remember all who have died in service of their countries in war, and all wars' innocent victims.

We should remember too cyclists who have been been killed because of our unsafe streets, and pledge ourselves to work for a future of peace and security for all.

May they rest in peace and rise in glory.

Thursday, 8 November 2012

Boris Bike Charges to Double

TfL has announced that from the new year, cycle hire charges will increase from £1 to £2 for daily access, from £5 to £10 for a week, and from £45 to £90 for a year.

There are reports in various newspapers including the Telegraph and Metro.

A doubling of fares for cycle hire users is bad news for cycling in London. Much of the success of the scheme has owed to its value for money in comparison to other modes of transport, and by making these increases the Mayor risks losing the support Boris bikes have enjoyed since their introduction. Perhaps if we were assured that the extra income generated from the fare rises would be used solely for improving and expanding the network of bikes and docking stations, it might be justified, but what seems more likely is that users will end up paying for the bad deal Boris did with Barclays, which has failed to provide the necessary funds to make cycle hire financially viable. I would urge the Mayor to reconsider - Boris bikes are a sustainable and healthy way for Londoners to travel, these charge increases will simply discourage the revolution in cycling which the Mayor himself has claimed to support. There are already so many barriers to cycling in London - higher fares simply create one more.

I will be writing to my Assembly Member to ask for this decision to be reviewed. The funding of the Boris bike scheme needs a thorough review if the scheme is to remain popular, affordable and an encouragement towards London becoming a cycling city.

Sunday, 4 November 2012

Wandsworth wants more Boris Bikes

As part of the 2013/14 expansion, TfL has announced a major expansion of the scheme southwards and westwards. Only parts of Wandsworth borough are covered however, and campaigners, especially in the south of the borough, are pushing for bikes across the entire borough. They also urge the bikes to be installed at Clapham Junction.

If you have views you can email them to transportation@wandsworth.

I wholeheardedly support the Clapham proposal. It seems idiotic to leave it out, when bikes close to stations (think of Waterloo) are among the most popular. In my own response to the plans for the borough, I also identified Battersea Park as a major omission, as leisure cycling would benefit from a station there, and help new users build confidence before they head out onto London's busy streets.

The campaign for bikes in the rest of Wandsworth also has merit, but with so many other boroughs actively campaigning for the bikes, it's a matter of allocation of resources. Southwark, another central London borough, has been woefully neglected so far. In Lambeth, Brixton will remain a Boris bike desert.

All this makes me wonder why the mayor is bringing forward plans for a new road tunnel in east London for cars and lorries. At the cost of millions of pounds, we will get increased congestion and more pollution, when if the money were instead invested in cycling, everyone would benefit from cleaner and greener streets - a real cycling revolution for London. I've responded to TfL's consultation opposing the plans and calling for investment in sustainable transport - maybe you can too.