With just a few months to go before the London Cycle Hire Scheme comes into operation, the man who designed Montreal’s Bixi scheme on which it is based has been talking about the success of that initiative.
In an interview with the Guardian, Michel Dallaire said that he believes that the London scheme could achieve similar success as it has done in Montreal, where more than 1 million rides were logged during the first four months of operation, leading to 2,000 more bikes to be put onto the streets for a total of 5,000.
"It has really changed the dynamic of the social community," Dalairs said. "It has changed Montreal. It's more friendly, people are more together - and it is so practical."
Local cycling campaigners agree that the scheme has made a difference. Suzanne Lareau, president of Velo Quebec highlighted that it had encouraged people to take up riding a bike.
"I saw people I knew who I never imagined would be on a bike in town, and some people cycling for the first time," she explained, adding that many of those using the scheme do own bicycles but won’t ride them in the city centre for fear that they will be stolen.
The London Cycle Hire Scheme will not be exactly the same as the one in Montreal, however, where docking stations are solar powered and are shut down in the winter months.
The stations, which hold six bikes, can also be picked up by cranes and moved to where they are most needed, while the ones in London, which will be powered by mains electricity from the National Grid, will be permanent features.
And while concerns have been raised here about the potential for bikes to be stolen or vandalised, those challenges were successfully overcome during the early months of the Bixi scheme, shown in the following video.
The sturdy design of the bicycles themselves instill confidence in users and deter vandalism, said Dallaire, while the Guardian quoted a spokesman for Bixi who said that thefts in the early days of the scheme ran at between 3% and 5%. Dallaire himself was called in to redesign the locking system, and levels of theft have since decreased.
Dallaire himself concedes that he is not himself an experienced cyclist, preferring to spend his spare time skiing, and he admits that his longest bike ride was a “really painful" 36 miles.
Whether we’ll ever see the architect of the London Cycle Hire Scheme try to negotiate the capital’s streets on two wheels is also open to debate, given his comments about the cycling in the city.
"The traffic in London with these huge buses, two storeys high and they drive so fast," he told the Guardian. "The bicycles sometimes are just in front of these big buses and they ride 40km, 50km in the city and of course on the wrong side of the street" – although that would presumably be the right side of the street for anyone driving or riding in Britain.
Born in Scotland, Simon moved to London aged seven and now lives in the Oxfordshire Cotswolds with his miniature schnauzer, Elodie. He fell in love with cycling one Saturday morning in 1994 while living in Italy when Milan-San Remo went past his front door. A daily cycle commuter in London back before riding to work started to boom, he's been news editor at road.cc since 2009. Handily for work, he speaks French and Italian. He doesn't get to ride his Colnago as often as he'd like, and freely admits he's much more adept at cooking than fettling with bikes.