Cycle friendly London


in Economics, Politics, The environment, The outdoors

Open space in the TLC complex, Gatineau

Once again, London is demonstrating leadership in making progressive urban choices in response to climate change. The city is going to spend £500m on making London more cycle friendly: an initiative that will include 6,000 rental bikes, 12 car-free cycle corridors through the city, and an increased number of pedestrian only streets.

The bike rental scheme is modelled after a successful Parisian initiative, which was in turn inspired by successful community bicycle programs in the Netherlands. The bikes can be collected and deposited from special stalls that will be set up every 300m. The rates to be charged in London don’t seem to be available yet, but those in Paris are very reasonable: free for under 30 minutes, one Euro for an hour, and increasing progressively beyond that. The idea is to stimulate their use in making human-powered trips easier, not letting people use a bike for half a day. The Dutch seem to be the world leaders when it comes to public support for cycling, with 40% of Amsterdam traffic consisting of bikes and a 10,000 bike parking garage under construction at the main train station. Copenhagen, Tel Aviv, Barcelona, Brussels, Stockholm, Berlin, Frankfurt, Munich, Helsinki, and Vienna all have community cycling schemes of some sort.

Cities that are blessed with snow and ice-free roads year round (*cough* Vancouver *cough*) might want to think about something similar. You can’t built many kilometres of highway or subway line for £500m, but you can probably do quite a lot to promote a health-positive, community-centric, and virtually emissions-free transportation option.

{ 12 comments… read them below or add one }

Milan February 12, 2008 at 4:20 pm
Anon February 13, 2008 at 9:50 am

Maybe Vancouver could establish a pilot scheme for the Olympics. It could be limited to a pretty restricted area:

* One stop at the entrance to Stanley Park
* Others spread through the downtown core
* Nobody allowed to cross False Creek or Main Street

That would probably include lots of Olympic venues.

. February 13, 2008 at 4:29 pm

Cycling in the BC Throne Speech

By Mike on other cities

From British Columbia’s Speech from the Throne, delivered yesterday:

A new “Walking School Bus” program will be developed to enable young students to walk safely to their schools, accompanied by adults. A similar new program — the “Bicycle Train”— will give groups of children the chance to bicycle to class with adult supervision.

It remains to be seen, of course, how much of that is feel good puffery about a program with a limited number of examples and how much is a concerted effort to set these sorts of things up. The mention, however, counts for at least something, and the idea is very good.

The speech also has a really good section on transit, including a commitment to encourage construction denser communities near public transit to facilitate ease of movement, affordable housing, and the associated environmental benefits. Throne Speeches are usually a good example of people not putting their money where their mouth is, but in the case of Transit in BC, it does seem that the commitment is more than just words on paper.

Claire February 14, 2008 at 8:28 am

They tried this in Cambridge about 10 years ago and all the bikes got stolen within a matter of months- and Cambridge is otherwise a crime-free utopia. I dont fancy the bike’s chances in London!

Milan February 14, 2008 at 10:02 am


I think you need to leave a credit card number on file in order to rent the bike. If you steal it, the cost just gets billed to you automatically.

It’s possible that people will steal them by cutting them away from whatever holds them at the stops – or that they will steal them from people who have rented them – but neither of those problems seems likely to be so widespread as to undermine the scheme overall.

Emily Horn February 14, 2008 at 4:37 pm

Cycle tracks will abound in Utopia.

~H.G. Wells

Sarah February 15, 2008 at 8:20 pm

Frankly, I suspect it won’t work very well – in the Netherands they like heavy, basic sit-up-and-beg bikes which last forever wheras most Brits are used to mountainbikes now which have more gears, better brakes, are more size specific and need more maintenance. Anyone brave enough to cycle in London (which used to be terrifying and without doubt the most dangerous place I have ever been on a bike) will probably want a better steed than a bikeshare project is likely to provide.

I also think it is important to note that Vancouver is CERTAINLY NOT snow and ice free year round – it has been regularly below zero since early November 2007, so we’ve had over 2 weeks total with considerable snow on the roads and they’ve been icy at night about half the time.
Although bike routes are listed amongst the City’s priorities for snowploughs and salting (right after emergency routes and bridges) they seem incapable of ploughing or salting the bike routes reliably & hence they get pretty dangerous. I rode home from UBC in a snowstorm last week & narrowly espaced being run over in December when my bike slipped on water ice & I landed flat on my back in front of a moving car (on Ontario bike route).
I am pretty certain that unless the winters are miraculously above zero or the city ploughs and salts bikeroutes (and other roads) far more effectively, encouraging winter cycling in Vancouver will result in more accidents & very likely more fatalities (given how dangerous & incompetent Vancouver drivers are on snow or ice).

Quotes February 26, 2008 at 4:06 pm

“A third of humanity doesn’t want to ride bikes anymore; that has profound geopolitical implications.”

—Anne Korin, the co-director of the Institute for the Analysis of Global Security (May 1, 2005)

. June 23, 2008 at 10:00 am

Montreal’s Public Bikes To Use Web, RFID, Solar

By kdawson on all-the-green-words

Ian Lamont writes “Montreal is preparing to launch a Web- and RFID-enabled public bike system that allows residents and visitors to rent bicycles at special depots scattered throughout the city. Using a Web site, riders can check out a real-time inventory of available bicycles at the depot locations. At the depots, a solar-powered base station will process credit cards or member cards. The bike docks use RFID, and the system is supposedly easy to install and maintain. A pilot program will launch in September with four bike depots.”

. August 25, 2008 at 3:54 pm

At this point in my calculations, I Googled to find out the average speed of bicycles, and I discovered, serendipitously, that I’m not the first person to try to do this math. What’s more, I’m not even the first person to invoke Thoreau and Illich while doing so; someone named Brad Morgan invoked them in 1991. And a fellow named Ken Kifer has made a much more thorough assessment of the costs of driving. Kifer has also assessed the costs and the Thoreau speed of bicycles, into the bargain. He estimates the Thoreau speed of cars as between 4.8 and 14.4 miles per hour, and the Thoreau speed of bicycles as between 8.9 and 14.8 miles per hour. Though beaten to the punch, I’m posting anyway, because my sources and method are different yet I end up confirming Kifer’s conclusion: When costs are factored in, cars are not faster than bikes and only twice as fast as walking.

. November 16, 2008 at 5:38 pm
. February 10, 2009 at 2:22 pm

Thefts puncture Paris bike scheme

A popular bicycle rental scheme in Paris that has transformed travel in the city has run into problems just 18 months after its successful launch.

Over half the original fleet of 15,000 specially made bicycles have disappeared, presumed stolen.

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