July 30th, 2010

London cycle hire

If you're a (potential) cyclist, there are some interesting things happening, particularly in London.

1. Sky Ride. These take place in various cities, and the streets are closed to motor vehicles, so it's a nice chance to cycle around if you're not confident about dealing with cars. I'll be on SJA duty for the big one in London, and I'm going along to a local one in Croydon with a friend.

2. Cycling Superhighways (London only). I haven't ridden on any of them since they were finished, but I'll try them out soon. If they coincide with a direction you want to go then it will at least be easier than checking a map: just follow the yellow brick blue tarmac road.

3. Cycle hire (London only). The basic idea is that you can pick up a bike from a docking station, cycle to where you want to go, then drop it off at another docking station; that way, you can use a bike as an alternative form of transport for short journeys without the commitment of actually buying one. I can take my Brompton on the train and then cycle at the other end, so this won't be much use to me; I may look at the "casual" membership later, but it's not worth paying for monthly access if I won't use it very often.

What I find more interesting about this scheme is the way that it's been marketed, and reported in the news.
BBC: "The scheme is similar to one used in Paris".
Guardian: "Boris Johnson's answer to Paris's Vélib bike-hire scheme launched in London today."
Evening Standard: "Paris's Vélib scheme began in 2007 and is much bigger, with around 22,000 bikes (London will start with 6,000). London's scheme is almost a direct copy of the Montreal scheme."

Everybody seems to have forgotten about poor old OYBike! They ran a very similar scheme in London, which I've blogged about before (here and here). They still operate in other cities, but not in London; I don't know whether they were pushed aside for the new scheme, or whether they left of their own accord and Barclays came in to fill the gap in the market. Either way, it seems like poor journalism not to mention them at all. I still have some prepaid credit with them, but it won't do me much good unless I travel to Cardiff or Reading. That's a minor irritation, but it makes me a bit more cautious about the new scheme.

Still, if these get more people cycling instead of driving then that has to be a good thing.