Saturday, 9 March 2013

Boris biking - a new dawn?

In the 4 months (!) since my last post, not a lot has changed. Slow and steady planning progress has been made towards the Western Extension; bad weather has reduced useage to a quarter of what it was at its Olympic peak; oh, and yes, the charges did go up. And then everything changed ...

See the Mayor's new vision for cycling here.

The obvious caveat is to wonder how much of this will actually come to fruition, but for now let's applaud the vision, and admit that the Mayor's vision for cycling has certainly changed from the rather impotent 'Cycling Revolution' we were initially promised. A good analysis of the new strategy is on the Cyclists in the City blog.

So let's think about what it promises on cycle hire - here's the text with my comments:

XII. Expanding and improving cycle hire

 We will extend Barclays Cycle Hire to many parts of Hammersmith & Fulham, Lambeth and
Wandsworth by the end of 2013. This represents a nearly 30 per cent rise in the size of the
scheme, to around 11,000 bikes.

No news here, this is already in planning. More likely early 2014 by the time all the docks are installed.

 Our new mainline terminus Cycle hub will have London’s largest docking station, with at least
several hundred bikes, at our new mainline terminus Cycle Superhub (see above), with very
good cycle routes linking from it. This and the wider bike parking at the Superhub will help
address unsatisfied commuter demand.

One assumes this will not be Waterloo which already has a superdock. Paddington maybe? Kings Cross / St Pancras would probably be my preferred option, though the Euston Road is a barrier to cycling. Victoria would be nice, but I don't think there's space. A consideraton here will be the massive new commuter flow set up - are there enough docks in central London to cope with the increased demand?

 We will expand popular docking stations, where space and planning allows, to reduce the
problem of empty and full docks. This will involve reducing the number of bikes at less wellused
docking stations.

That's fine - but why reduce the number of bikes at less popular stations? Just have more bikes overall surely?

 We will open (or move) docking stations along our Quietway and Central London Grid routes
(within or just beyond the existing footprint of the scheme) to drive usage of the new routes.

Perfectly sensible, though opening new stations is to be preferred. If, as I think, this strategy will significantly stimulate cycle use in central London, many more centrally located docks will be needed. Plus why abandon sites which are already installed and have planning permission?

 We will carry out incremental expansion of the footprint where there is strong demand.

This is quite nebulous - what is strong demand? And might this favour affluent neighburhoods rather than others, where community groups are vocal and well-organised. Indeed, might it depend on the particular whims of local authorities? I would prefer to see a more centrally-planned scheme for expansion which will eventually cover all of London.

 We will work with local authorities who wish to pay to extend the footprint such as to Kentish

See above - what if authorities don't want to pay? No-one should be denied the bikes simply due to local politics.

 To drive usage, we will encourage companies, universities, colleges and hotels to install new
docking stations on their premises, at their own expense, for the use of their staff, students
and guests.

This is brilliant, if it's carried out properly, and the docking stations are located in public areas. In fact, it's probably the best way of addressing the capacity issues in central London. I could imagine a large dock in the grounds of Imperial College, just to choose one example.

 For this, we will particularly target companies and universities with a number of separate
central London sites which are slightly too far apart to walk between, but slightly too close for
public transport to be convenient.

I'm not entirely sure how effective this will be, but I don't object.

 Given the heavy use of the scheme by tourists, we will develop and market Barclays Cycle Hire
tour routes, along quiet streets, which they can follow, with appropriate signage, printed
leaflets, website downloads and apps for their phones. This again will drive usage.

Great idea - though I also think docking stations need to be better sited for tourist useage. Docking stations for St Paul's and Westminster Abbey for example are hidden in side streets. And dare I mention the Mall??

 We will integrate cycle hire with the roll-out of contactless payments using credit, debit and
charge cards, to make it a fully joined-up part of the transport network.

No objection to that - shame the system can't accept Oyster

Overall, the opportunities for cycle hire within the strategy are somewhat more limited than the ambitious initial phases of the scheme. Yet .the network of safer routes should significantly stimulate demand for the bikes, which in itself will further the case for further expansion and intensification. Boris calls for cycling to be 'de-lycrafied' - what better way than through the bikes which bear his name?