Six-month trial of bikes on Docklands Light Railway (DLR) is success for London Cycling Campaign

After 25 years of lobbying by the London Cycling Campaign, it's been announced there'll be a six-month trial allowing bicycles on the Docklands Light Railway (DLR) beginning on 1 July 2013.

The Mayor's Vision for Cycling promised a trial of allowing people with bikes to use the DLR network, and we and CTC met Transport for London officials on 30 May to help make those proposals concrete.

People will be allowed to take their bikes with them at off-peak times on all DRL services except for Bank station.

Bikes will be not be allowed from 0730-0930 or 1600-1900 on Mondays to Friday (except bank holidays).

The new rules will open up many areas for Londoners to explore by bike: for example, it'll allow an easier river crossing to and from Greenwich.

We advise people not to use Cutty Sark station, which becomes very crowded. To avoid the tourists it is easier to travel from Greenwich to Mudchute.              . 

LCC testing DLR use in June

London Cycling Campaign volunteers will take part in a special pre-trial testing over two weekends at the end of June.

Working with DLR operators Serco Docklands we will help to identify possible problem areas and help inform the advice given to cyclists, Docklands staff and other passengers. 

This week LCC and CTC's rail expert Dave Holladay met with Serco Docklands Ltd's Senior Operations & Customer Services Manager, Louise Cheesman, to plan this operation.

A small group of our members will have special access to the system and will report back on any difficulties they find.

Campaign success

Allowing bikes on DLR has been a long-term campaign objective of London Cycling Campaign.

This is an objective we and other cycling groups have been campaigning for ever since the DLR opened in 1987. 

Bikes are allowed on an increasing number of light rail and tram systems across the world. 

We would also expect to see bikes allowed on the new Crossrail services, especially as they will be replacing many suburban trains that currently carry bikes at off peak times.


This is great news.   I have been using DLR for six months, for one zone, with my fold up bike as 12 miles is just a touch too far (for me) on my Dahon.  I'd rather keep that bike for local trips and have the option of taking the hybrid on DLR, if needed.

  • By K219 at 8:38am 1 June 2013

Well done LCC. I was asked to leave the DLR with my bike on Thursday. I did not know before boarding that bikes were not allowed, assuming it was the same as other lines. It seemed to be a shameful neglect of its potential to connect residents across greater distances.

Great news. If this trial is successful, the carriage of unfolded bikes on the DLR's deep bored tunnels under the Thames will set a valuable precedent for Crossrail's cycle carriage policy:

"The final policy on cycle carriage on Crossrail will be a matter for the Train Operating Company (TOC) responsible for the railway at that time. Crossrail is not currently in a position to be able to make commitments on the final cycle carriage policy that would be adopted by the TOC in the future. The project shares most subsurface stations with LUL and the working assumption is that there will be a ban on cycle carriage at all times between Acton Main Line and Stratford/Abbey Wood."

Currently cyclists with non-folding bikes can travel on suburban trains into Paddington Station during off-peak hours. Crossrail's policy is suggesting that when those same suburban trains change to use Crossrail's tunnel and underground platforms at Paddington Station, cyclists with non-folding bikes won't be able to travel past Acton Main Line, even on a sunny summer weekend like today.

If the DLR trial can establish that non-folding bikes can be accommodated in deep bored tunnels during off-peak hours without causing the world to come to an end, then we'll be in a stronger position for Crossrail.

  • By Dave H at 11:22pm 1 June 2013

I think that K219's experience may reflect why DLR has invited this development and engaged LCC and CTC in the process. Bikes already do get in to their system, and in many cases the enforcement of a rigid 'no bikes' rule is clearly hard to enforce when the DLR train is not very busy, and the intervention creates confrontation where it could probably be avoided.

However changes like this pose a serious worry to an operator moving millions of people around every month. One small change multiplied by the thousands passing through a station and boarding a train could completely disrupt the carefully structured timetable. Hence the need to be confident that as an example, loading bikes does not add to the dwell time at a station.

We have made a small step on the way, in the same week that BART in San Francisco voted to permit unrestricted access to their network, some 41 years after their first trials. Hopefully with their experience and a successful trial period for off-peak access, we too can develop the appropriate regime, but within a slightly shorter timescale.

It is rightly noted that the faff of getting down to catch a DLR train at Island Gardens or Cutty Sark will normally be recognised as something which can be avoided, for the extra 'effort' of using Mudchute and Greenwich, and the trial period can help to shape information and signage appropriately.

One detail that has already been picked up the in a study for the potential for 100% certainty for cycle carriage with taxis, showed that this would be especially popular with women travelling late at night as an alternative to cycling through some parts of London, and more widely with new and less confident cyclists as a way to avoid the difficult bits that prevent their use of a bike for many trips. Likewise with DLR, and perhaps we might see more of this use (officially) of late night/cross-river bus services. 


This post was edited by Dave H at 11:32pm 1 June 2013.

Cool - I got a transcript of mayor's questions and apparently bikes will definitely be allowed on crossrail too :-)

Fredofred, do you mean that unfolded bikes will definitely be allowed in Crossrail's deep bored tunnels from Acton Main Line to Stratford and Abbey Wood? I am not sure if you are referring to the mayoral question below, which really only confirms that bikes can be carried on the surface sections of Crossrail e.g. Maidenhead to Acton Main Line:

Crossrail and cycling: Question No: 1236 / 2013 of 22 May 2013

Caroline Pidgeon: "It was recently announced that the Crossrail rolling stock will be bought with public money. Will you ensure that the trains have the capacity to carry bicycles?"

Written response from the Mayor: "Yes."

  • By Dave H at 10:03am 3 June 2013

Precisely dominicfee - there is a very slippery bit of wording currently in corresppondence and other papers relating to the OPERATION of Crossrail, where TfL has up to now dodged the issue by saying it is a decision that will be made by the concessionaire who wins the contract to operate the trains for TfL.

However the concession contract must obviously specify how TfL wishes the contractor to operate the service for them, and thus should clearly have a detail such as providing for cycle carriage included in the contract conditions.

One major issue during the Crossrail Inquiry was the fact that there would be cross-platform interchange with deep level tube trains and the current (theoretical - reports suggest some bikes do slip through - including ordinary ones) ban on cycle carriage on these trains when running in the tight confines of the existing deep level tube tunnels. However such cross-platform interchanges have existed for over 100 years at Barons Court, Queens Park, Stratford, Mile End, and other stations on the LUL network, and no problems ave been reported, or of sufficent gravity to warrant severe policing. 

The new MD for TfL Crossrail project is from an operating background reflecting the move from construction to operation as the project focus in the coming year or so, and the topic has already been raised informally with him - perhaps it would be better though to leave this thread for DLR and set up separate discussions for Crossrail and Thameslink issues.  

For the DLR trial the outcome will fit well with the tendering and issue of the new concession contract (so that the detail on cycle carriage will be included, and perhaps a model for other TfL rail and bus service contracts, not already covered)  

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