Wednesday 2nd June, 2010

Bicycles for all in London

Bikes for hire. Image Courtesy TFL.

Don’t own a bike but wish you could go cycling? Well, your prayers are about to be answered as this July Transport for London (TfL) will be launching a bike hire service across Central London.

The idea is beautiful in its simplicity: 6,000 bikes will be docked at stations strewn across Central London, available for anyone to take out after registering. All you need to do is hop on one, cycle to your heart’s content, and return it to any docking station. London Cycling Campaign (LCC) is helping TfL to promote the scheme. LCC spokesman Mike Cavenett answers all you needed to know before the long-awaited launch:

Green on Grey: How much does the scheme cost?

Mike Cavenett: There is an annual membership fee of £45, but the first half hour OF EACH RIDE is free. Then there is an exponential increase in the cost of taking the bike out for longer. The idea is for people to bike around for half an hour and return it, not park it around someone’s house, so that there are always more bikes available.
[Note: One-day and weekly memberships are available at the rate of £1 and £5, respectively. For a complete fee breakdown, visit TFL

Are helmets going to be provided?
M.C.: There’s no helmet law here in the UK, so we won’t be providing them. If we did, there might be health issues—we’re going to have 6,000 bikes, with 40,000 cyclists a day, so that would be SIX TO SEVEN times a helmet would be worn each day. There are going to be hot, sweaty days, and we would have to sanitise the helmets. Cycling in London generally is very safe, not many accidents happen, so wearing a helmet is more of an option.

How do you plan on helping first-time cyclists be safe on the road then?
M.C.: For the first few weeks we’ll have people at docking stations with maps showing routes that are safe, so people won’t bike where there’s heavy traffic. Also, there have been studies that showed that more bikes on the road means increased safety. Basically, the more cyclists there are on the road, the more noticeable they are to drivers. And we’re going to get many bikers out there!

Are there going to be bikes for children?
M.C.: Our bikes are not designed for children. They’re more one size fits all. You must be 16 to register, so that excludes children. The problem with lending bikes to children is that in other cities they take the bikes and disappear. You’re going to have to register with a credit or debit card, so that will prevent that from happening.

The official launch is 31 July. Hopefully that coincides with some sunshine!


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