Category Archives: Cycle safety

Friday the Thirteenth

Artwork on display at Central St Martins
On Friday 13 December about 150 new docking stations will go live across Hammersmith and Fulham, Wandsworth, and Lambeth. Plus a few others in the existing area. Many new stations have already gone live in Kensington and Chelsea (among the latest are Phene Street, Clarendon Road, Lansdowne Road and St Mark's Road).

This is the most exciting expansion of the Boris bike scheme since the eastern extension in April 2012. It will make the London scheme one of the biggest in the world.

Serious questions are currently being asked about cycle safety in London. For the potential of these new bikes to be realised, much more needs to be done in providing space for cycling in London. But on Friday 13th, thousands more Londoners will have access to a cheap, healthy and convenient transport option. I hope many more will switch to cycling as a result.

Space for Boris biking

Yesterday evening 5,000 cyclists took to the streets of London in London Cycling Campaign's 'Space for Cycling' ride. The protest ride passed the Houses of Parliament where MPs were debating the Get Britain Cycling report.

Boris bikers support 'Space for Cycling' ride
The ride is the latest in a series designed to highlight the need for more dedicated space for cycling on Britain's roads, to improve safety and encourage more people to switch to two wheels.

Many Boris bikers took part in the event. Of all London's cyclists, those who take to Boris bikes are often novices or less experienced. The cycle hire scheme deliberately encourages new cyclists and casual users. Helmets are, quite rightly, not compulsory.

If we want streets where all cyclists are safe, including children and the elderly, then we need streets with facilities to protect us from fast-moving motor traffic and HGVs. Government spending on cycling remains pitiful compared to other European countries, despite the huge benefits in improving air quality, health and tackling congestion.

I hope this ride has helped our parliamentary representatives understand that to really Get Britain Cycling we need political will and investment.

Boris bikes – keeping the wheels turning

As I am writing this, I can hear a radio advert for cycle hire in the background. There are new ads around the streets, and even a new video. Oh, and Manchester wants them too.

A Boris biker enjoys the Freecycle in London
New figures from TfL show that almost a million journeys were made by Boris bike in July, and last week's Freecycle was the perfect showcase for thousands of the beautiful blue bikes to take to London's streets. And all over south and west London the newest docking stations are being installed.

So I was surprised to read the rather downbeat assessment of the bikes by Andrew Neather in the Standard, a paper which has in recent months given great encouragement to London cyclists. On striking workers, the farcical Barclays sponsorship deal, and continuing problems with redistribution he is of course spot on. And I have always believed cycle hire needed to be introduced as part of an integrated cycling policy which would put safety as a top priority. Nevertheless, my own view is that Boris bikes have been a great success in getting Londoners onto bikes who would never otherwise have found the means. For many of us, with cramped urban homes, we have no space for our own bikes, and the Boris bike is the perfect easy pick-up and ride. Someone else even does the work if you get a puncture or a broken gear!

At £90 for annual membership, 25p per day is still superb value despite the price rises this year (essential I think to boost revenue). With over 100 new docking stations opening later in the year, membership will also take you further across London. At last we will start to leave behind the main initial problem with the scheme - that it was too timid in its ambition. I hope that further expansion will follow.

If I could wish for one further things from TfL and Serco with regards to the bikes, it would be for greater engagement with users. As the writer of this blog, I find it frustrating how little information is shared by the operators about new developments and future plans. Harnessing the enthusiasm and passion of users will pay back in continued use of the bikes, and new members joining through personal recommendation.

I hope Andrew Neather keeps faith with the humble Boris bike, despite its flaws.

And a final note on docking stations - Queen Street is now back to full operation after the interminable building works which had closed half of it. The much-missed Wansey Street dock remains closed due to the works to secure the Cuming Museum after the fire. It is due back soon though.

Aldgate Flashride Update

1,500 cyclists took to the streets in a respectful protest on Friday evening in memory of Philippine de Gerin-Ricard, killed on CS2 close to Aldgate. I attended along with several other Boris bikers. Philippine was using a hire cycle at the time of her death.

London's streets must be made safer for all cyclists, from the fastest and most experienced to those who are just taking to two wheels. We must emulate Holland and other countries where cycling is a safe activity for the majority. I join with others in asking the Mayor to make sure CS2 and other superhighways are upgraded to the safest standards so that there will be no other needless casualties on London's roads.

Friday Flashride – Boris biking should be safe

We note with sadness the death of Philippine De Gerin-Ricard, a French student aged 20 who died in a collision with an HGV close to Aldgate on 'Superhighway' 2. She was a regular Boris biker. This stretch of superhighway has been widely criticised for mixing cyclists with aggressive motor traffic, the only evidence of any 'superness' being some blue paint on the road.

This Friday LCC have organised a flashride from Tower Hill to Aldgate, starting at 6.15pm. I will be there. The ride will pause at the site of Philippine's death as a mark of respect. TfL and the Mayor must hear our plea that no more casualties on London's roads should be allowed by a failure to tackle the conflict on our streets. CS2 should be totally overhauled to separate traffic from cycles, upgrading the design to the far better solutions proposed in Stratford for the extension of this same highway. And the City of London needs better plans to keep cyclists safe in Aldgate, where the removal of the gyratory gives an opportunity to change the culture in this area into one where urban space is calmed by being made available to pedestrians and cycles, rather than cars. The current proposals do not go far enough. Please join me on Friday.

In other news ...

Boris bikes are costing taxpayers money. Not a new story but one which will increase pressure for a better sponsorship deal than the one with Barclays. I agree with Jenny Jones, that in its current shape the scheme is not ambitious enough to encourage the levels of cycling needed to make it sustainable.

And if you live in Wandsworth, all the sites are now confirmed for the extension this autumn/winter.

Some of the new docks are starting to go in at last. I've personally seen a site marked off on Holland Park Avenue, and installation is underway at Archbishops Park. News of more sightings would be welcome!

Can’t stop the Bikes

Good news coming from Kenisngton and Chelsea, where planning for the new Boris Bike docks is at an advanced stage.

The crucial decision over Lavender Gardens in Wandsworth borough is due next week.

And though this blog was set up to comment exclusively on cycle hire issues, I would draw your attention to the work a number of us have been engaged with in the Regent Street / Haymarket area. This part of town is quite dense with docking stations, yet a nightmare of conflict between traffic and cyclists. Let's hope for a resolution which benefits us all.

And maybe Westminster are eventually seeing the light on cycling. This article in the Evening Standard suggests they are starting to take safety seriously.

Boris bikes and bad journalism

Thank goodness few people read the Wandsworth Guardian, because it contains one of the worst pieces of journalism I have ever read. It pains me to give it more coverage than it's due, but here it is.
Boris bikes - a threat to children and blind people? Unlikely

Once you've got over that shock, a few points are worth making. Firstly, at the end of the article Nick Aldworth explains why the power supply has been put in early, and makes it clear that it will be removed if planning consent is not given. The rest of the article is mainly scaremongering. What possible danger can sedately-paced Boris bikes pose to a nursery school, or for that matter, to a blind person? Far less than motor vehicles I can assure you. The loss of six parking spaces is nothing compared to the multiple journeys which will be possible into and out of the area by hire bike. As for the Shrubbery's 'Tudor foundations', has no-one noticed cars have been parking outside it for years? Let me be clear - cars clutter our streets, pollute, and are potentially dangerous. Bikes are smaller, emission free, and safe. My hope for Lavender Gardens is that it will be transformed from a busy motor thoroughfare into a haven for pedestrians and cyclists.

We need a shift in perceptions. One of the reasons given for rejecting a docking station on the Mall was conservation. Yet that street is a busy dual carriageway, with a car/coach park down one side. I hope Wandsworth, and other councils, will see through this sort of nonsense and embrace cycling as a safe, clean and healthy mode of urban transport fit for our future. I look forward to docking in Lavender Gardens soon.

Boris bikes – more to come

And the winner was ... Boris.

So the next 4 years will no doubt see further battles over road design and the totemic policy of 'smoothing traffic flow'; but on a brighter note, the Boris bike is here to stay, and by 2016 (and he apparently won't run for a third term) who knows how widespread they'll be? There are few details of the western extension yet, hopefully these will follow later this year.

Dock construction seems to be taking a pause. A new one has opened in John Islip Street, and Monument Street went live a couple of weeks ago, but I'm not aware of any others under construction which are not now open. It will be interesting to see how the scheme copes during the Olympic months. It's already quite worrying that on a fine evening, most of central London is empty of the bikes by mid-evening, making them useless for evening entertainment. Initially we were promised that more docks and a better understanding of the patterns of use would help Serco solve these problems. It seems the patterns of use are now well-established, and simply accepted.

A very interesting, and encouraging, article appeared recently in Bike Biz. It's an old argument that sheer volume of cyclists will help improve road safety because other vehicles can't help but take greater care. This seems to be happening now in some of the busiest areas of London, such as the City. There's a way to go though before this effect will calm some of our busier routes, and the removal of cycle lanes in favour of narrower streets (take St Paul's Churchyard as an example) can only increase the conflict between cyclists and other traffic.

Boris bikes are coming to New York too, in a scheme which will eclipse our own. 600 docking stations and 10,000 bikes should be in place by this summer, using the Bixi system, originally developed in Canada and used for our own beloved  Boris bikes. The prices are higher than London, but the omens look good for America's most ambitious bike hire scheme to date. Take a look at their website.