'Boris Bikes' cycle hire scheme extending into Battersea

Back in March 2011, Susie Morrow worked on behalf of Wandsworth Cycle Campaign with Jane Ellison MP on the proposal presented to the Mayor of London for the extension of the Barclays Cycle Hire scheme into Battersea.

As a member of the Barclays Cycle Hire scheme since its 2010 launch, I'm pleased that it's arriving in Wandsworth, opening up entirely new transport (and recreation) choices. Like car clubs, the scheme allows informal access to a particular mode of transport - in this case, cycling. For many local residents it will remove the obvious barrier to cycling of having nowhere to keep a bicycle at home. The scheme increases opportunities for 'multimodal' travel, and flexibility of journey e.g. allowing trips out on the bike and back on the bus. Whenever I've used 'Boris Bikes', I'm struck by the camaradarie between users (especially at docking stations when taking out or returning bikes). It's both personal - we all construct our own individual journeys - and sociable.

Furthermore, it's healthy, and it can save you money. (Is it just me, or does £784 for an annual bus+tram pass and £1,216 for an annual zones 1-2 Travelcard seem a lot of money?). The scheme's designed for short trips of up to 30 minutes. In practice, this means up to 4 to 5 miles, putting Chelsea, Putney and Wandsworth within easy reach of Battersea residents for a single-hire-trip - as well as, further afield, Vauxhall, and points in between. Since half of all London car trips are two miles or less, the potential for hire bikes to replace some of these is clear... win-wins for us as individuals needing to be more active, cleaner air and quieter, less congested streets. Since 2001, car ownership's fallen across London, with nearly half of borough households not owning a car. Some Battersea wards have even lower car ownership, notably Latchmere (62.3% of households) and Queenstown (59.3%) (Census 2011 data).

Perhaps some of us will use the Barclays Cycle Hire scheme as a kind of outdoor low-cost gym (£90 annual membership). Imagine groups of older residents going for leisurely rides round Battersea Park and via the riverside to Putney.... 'Battersea Bimblers', anyone?

As anyone who's used them will know, Boris Bikes are well suited for local journeys. Though sturdy (for which read: 'built like a tank'), the low gearing makes it easy to glide along on the comfortably wide tyres, and the enclosed chain means you can wear normal clothes - as many 'suited-and-booted' City types have discovered. The small front luggage rack securely holds a bag, briefcase, or daysack.

link to larger map

The scheme's due to arrive here in December, as part of a 25 sq.km. extension into Wandsworth and Hammersmith & Fulham and increased coverage of Kensington & Chelsea and Lambeth. Transport for London has learned much about running it, and those lessons will be applied in Wandsworth. The first requirement is a good network of docking stations; around 60-70 are planned for our borough, including a 'super-docking-station' on Grant Road immediately north of Clapham Junction station.

Docking stations must be accessible for Serco service vehicles, and experience has shown that they need to be sufficiently large to minimise the need to redistribute bicycles to ensure that both spaces and bikes are available at each station. However, few of our borough's pavements are wide enough to accommodate such docking stations; consequently, in most locations, carriageway space is being reallocated for docking. Bicycles are vehicles, so there's logic in accommodating docking stations on roads. This also sends a useful signal about who our pavements are for, as well as helping to re-balance our streets towards 'active travel' (walking and cycling). From April, Wandsworth Council takes over public health responsibilities locally, and the Barclays Cycle Hire scheme will help address the pressing need for residents to be more physically active for their health. Indeed, recently published National Institute for Health and Clinical Excellence (NICE) public health guidance identifies public cycle hire schemes as a cost-effective way to promote cycling and improve public health.

The scheme's 19.5 million journeys to date have highlighted its safety [*] and role in 'normalising' cycling amongst a wider range of Londoners. Nevertheless, more could be done to make Wandsworth's streets more cycle-friendly and inviting to would-be Boris-Bikers; fear of 'the traffic' is what most discourages people from cycling. With this in mind, Wandsworth Living Streets has floated the concept of a 20mph speed limit for most roads in the northern swathe of Wandsworth, between Vauxhall and Putney.

You can find out more about the scheme as it develops on Wandsworth Council and TfL websites, at www.wandsworth.gov.uk and www.tfl.gov.uk/roadusers/cycling/14808.aspx. See you on a Boris Bike next Christmas?


[*] "Disaster waiting to happen": The London Bike Hire Scheme and why Bradley Wiggins was so wrong (Part Four) http://rdrf.org.uk/2012/08/17/disaster-waiting-to-happen-the-london-bike-hire-scheme-and-why-bradley-wiggins-was-so-wrong-part-four/


About Susie Morrow:

- Chair, Wandsworth Living Streets (follow us on twitter @WandsLS)

- Community Member of the National Institute for Health and Clinical Excellence (NICE) advisory group which produced national guidance on promoting walking and cycling as forms of travel or recreation, published November 2012 and available at www.nice.org.uk/ph41


Become a supporter of London Cycling Campaign - to help make London a more livable city for cyclists and pedestrians.


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