Charity fears funding may be cut as more cash considered for Cycle Hire Scheme

Sustainable transport charity Sustrans has urged Mayor of London Boris Johnson not to neglect promoting cycling in the capital’s outer boroughs following the news that a further £81 million may be spent on the Barclays Cycle Hire Scheme, which is restricted to the centre of the city.

Today, the Evening Standard reported that the mayor planned to commit the money to expand the scheme to mainline railway stations, excluded from the first phase launched last Friday since it was thought that there would not be enough bikes to cope with anticipated levels of demand, and into East London ahead of the 2012 Olympics.

According to the newspaper, the board of Transport for London (TfL), which is chaired by the mayor, is considering investing £81.7 million more in the scheme, although it is unclear whether approval will be given due to TfL’s financial situation.
The Standard has learned that Transport for London's board — which is chaired by the Mayor — is due to decide next month whether to invest an extra £81.7 million in the cycle hire scheme. The spending is not sure to be approved because of the state of TfL's finances.

However, Kulveer Ranger, Mr Johnson’s transport adviser, said: “The Mayor is extremely proud of the hard work that has gone into the launch of the cycle scheme, the positive manner in which Londoners have embraced it and the patience they have shown when minor issues have occurred. He has always said that if the scheme was a success he would be keen to see it expanded.”

A spokeswoman for TfL added: “Expansion could include extending the scheme to the east of London in time for the Olympics and intensifying the number of docking stations in the existing cycle hire area. We hope to make an announcement later this year.”
More than 30,000 people are now registered members of the scheme, ad the Standard reports that TfL is in discussions about increasing the number of docking stations by 25% to 400 and putting 1,000 more bicycles – quickly nicknamed ‘Boris Bikes’ – on the streets, taking the total to 6,000.

If the TfL board did decide to commit extra money to the scheme, it’s likely that it would have to make cuts elsewhere, and Sustrans believes that the Biking Boroughs initiative, announced in January and designed to encourage cycling in outer London boroughs, could suffer.

According to TfL, 70% of the potential to grow cycling in the city lies in outer London, however Sustrans claims that the Biking Boroughs initiative, announced last year' plans to boost cycling in thirteen outer boroughs appear to have been put to one side in favour of the high-profile and city centre Cycle Hire.

Carl Pittam, Director of Sustrans in London, said: “Sustrans and other organisations helped Transport for London produce guidelines for increasing levels of cycling in the outer boroughs but the boroughs have been given no additional funding to help them deliver it.”

He continued: “Sustrans supports Cycle Hire, and expanding it to Olympic Park, but if even a small portion of the £81million that Boris has earmarked for Cycle Hire was assigned to the thirteen Biking Boroughs then it could increase numbers of people cycling and give Londoners in other parts of London the chance to benefit from the Mayor's Cycling Revolution.”

Sustrans claims that around 2.4 million journeys in outer London each day could potentially be carried out by bicycle, but adds that most are currently carried out by car. It says that by giving the boroughs concerned discretion over how to spend money for cycling, local councils can prioritise the improvements that will most benefit their own areas, whether that be improving cycle lanes or junctions, or encouraging children to cycle to school.

Mr Pittam added: “We know that the recommendations in Biking Boroughs are effective. Sustrans already has proven success with the Bike It project working to help pupils make the school journey on foot or bike. Across the UK last year we more than tripled the number of pupils cycling to school everyday in Bike It schools, at an average cost of less than £30 per child, per year.”

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.