Wednesday, 22 September 2010

No more space for Boris bikes docking stations. Really?

Boris bike cousins in Montreal
If you're reading this, there is a fair chance you may be an occasional user of the humble Boris bike. And if you are, you may have noticed the peculiar fact that they are near impossible to source in the City in the evenings and that it's near impossible to dock your Boris bike after about 8am. That is until the Serco people come along with their white vans and reposition some bikes.

Anyhow, this is a rambling way of making two points about the bikes. First is that City officialdom seems quite pleased with the bikes. When we attended meetings with the City a year ago, there were predictions of carnage in the streets as unwary City cyclists hit the streets.

The City is wary of its poor record on road injuries among cyclists and feared the scheme would make for even worse statistics.

So imagine our excitement to hear, at a meeting on Monday evening, that the City is broadly happy with the scheme and regards it a success. There were some suggestions (and this is my interpretation) that the scheme is leading to a new, slower, safer and, more polite cycle culture in the square mile. That's very much the message it would like to hear, at least.

So far so good.

The even better news is that Transport for London wants to talk with the City about placing more docking stations within the City bounds. Good on them. If London ever ends up like Montreal, where the Boris bike cousins dwell, there will be docking stations on every other corner. Have a look at the Bixi map here. A single small park gets one docking station on every corner.

Not so good on the Bixi front in London, though is the prevailing view within the City that there simply isn't room. Two more docking stations would be the City's saturation point, according to one of the more senior people on Monday. Two more docking stations for the entire City? Is that all?

The City has an issue with cycle parking on street level. Its great that we'll soon be seeing more bike parking in City carparks. But if you've ever tried parking your bike near St Paul's or Fenchurch Street. The prevailing view is there's not enough room for more cycle parking. That counters with the City's recognition that it needs up to 27,000 bike parking spaces if it is going to ever meet demand. The review of that bike parking is underway so things may yet change.

But the point is that Boris bike docking stations seem to equal on-street bike parking in some City quarters. And on-street cycle parking is a bit of a no-no. Hence the problem.

If you're a user of Boris bikes, you'd probably like to see more of them and for them to be more widely available.

At the moment, the City's thinking is to resist too many new docking stations.

If you want that to change, then shout about it to your aldermen listed here, to the City officers or even to your employer. If just one senior board member at a bank or a law firm writes a note to one of the City's politicians saying they'd like more Boris bikes near their offices to get to meetings with, I can almost guarantee the City will sit up and listen. It might not be the most democratic way of thinking, but it's how the City thinks about these things.