Countless cities throughout France, Germany and Canada run hugely successful bike-sharing schemes, to enable locals and tourists to travel economically, healthily and without damaging the environment. When is the UK going to cotton on to this great idea?
We did…in 1993, Cambridge launched a fleet of 300 sharing-bikes and almost the entire set was stolen. Since then, significant improvements in electronic tracking have made security controls more efficient and thus, we are ready for a re-launch.
Boris Johnston’s London Cycle Hire scheme is due to commence on July 30th this year. Sponsored by Barclays Bank, tourists and other members of the public aged 14 and above will be able to pick up a bike and return it to any one of the 400 docking stations in London, ready for other users to share. There will be no booking system and the scheme will be completely self service. A free iPhone App will help cyclists locate their nearest docking station ( http://cyclehireapp.com).
In order to use the scheme, cyclists will need to pay an access fee and a usage charge. Usage costs will be based on the length of each journey, with the initial half hour of every journey being free. Costs are small but there will be penalties for late returns and damage. The scheme is designed around users making short journeys, for transport around the city and is not marketing itself as a ‘bike hire’ centre for long distance bike riding.
Boris Johnston is hugely enthusiastic about the bike-sharing scheme but does warn that it is likely to be less than perfect to begin with. Deanna Oppenheimer, chief executive of Barclays retail operation, is very optimistic, expecting the scheme to be become ‘as iconic as the Tube or London buses’.
Designated cycle routes on major routes will open on July 19th with some road surfaces painted blue to assist bike and car users sharing the same road. It is hoped that other road users will benefit from the reduction in motor-vehicle traffic on the roads and that the scheme may also seek to tackle congestion and overcrowding on tubes.
For more information, take a look at http://www.tfl.gov.uk/roadusers/cycling/12444.aspx
Photo of bike sharing scheme in Denver, USA (Taken by ontheroad.com)