London cycle hire – good start, now let’s spread it

18,000 now registered; CTC and Sustrans say scheme should be extended

by Martin Thomas   July 31, 2010  

Barclays Cycle Hire bikes

The Barclay’s Cycle Hire scheme launched to a flurry of media interest and cautious optimism yesterday, with cycling bodies calling for the scheme to be extended to outer London boroughs.

Transport for London says around 18,000 people have registered as members of the scheme, which offers 6,000 bikes across 400 docking stations all over central London. On the opening day, 6,400 people hired bikes.

Those who would rather use the scheme without becoming registered members will have to wait until the end of August.

According to Sustrans, the scheme’s focus on central London cycle journeys needs to be widened to get even more people on bikes.

Carl Pittam, Sustrans’ director in London, said, “The London Cycle Hire scheme is a positive move for helping to mainstream cycling and raise its profile. But the scheme is only active in central London at present, despite Transport for London analysis highlighting that 70 per cent of the potential for cycling is in the outer London boroughs.

“Sustrans would like to see more such schemes catering for journeys outside central London and more emphasis – and funding – going to support initiatives to encourage children, young people and women to take to two wheels.”

CTC Campaigns Director Roger Geffen said, “It is a wonderful opportunity for lots of people in London to discover how much quicker and easier it is to travel by bike. I very much hope that its success will then trigger the funding needed to spread the scheme across London, and to other towns and cities around the UK. If so, this could prove to be a major step towards creating a strong cycling culture, not just in our capital but throughout Britain.”

The scheme has been greeted rather more enthusiastically than the bikes themselves. Apart from the overt Barclay’s branding, which has offended some, there have been several reviews focusing on the bikes’ lardiness (not least road.cc’s own).

Zoe Williams in the Guardian said, “The pace is what I believe they call stately – solid as a tram, so ridiculously stable you could indicate with both arms, only of course then nobody would know which way you were going. I decided to overtake a chap at the top of Victoria Embankment and didn't actually manage it until the Houses of Parliament, by which time I'd been following for so long I was technically stalking him. [...] It has absolutely everything you could want from a bike, especially if part of you wants thighs like Sir Chris Hoy.

CTC president Jon Snow said in the FT, “In truth, the very idea of anything more than 30 minutes on the Boris Barclay bike is pretty daunting. I count myself as a fit and fast urban cyclist. Not on this machine. The gears are low, the amount of tyre in touch with the road considerable. These are fat, bungy tyres allegedly filled with nitrogen. This is a sit-up-and-beg-life. It is not uncomfortable, but it is heavy and slow.”

Meanwhile, back on the mean streets of London, The Daily Mirror ran a story today about a 23 year-old man who may have secured the dubious honour of being the first to be arrested for causing damage to the 'Boris bikes', when he attacked one yesterday in a fit of pique after losing his phone.