London cycle hire opens today

London's official cycle-hire scheme starts today, completing the capital's cycling 'revolution' and following in the slipstream of the cycle superhighway network.

As Brockley Central is home to so many keen cyclists, we thought we'd ask for your verdict on the superhighways (map here) and whether you've registered to use the cycle-hire scheme.

We regularly cycle from Brockley to Victoria so we're looking forward with interest to route 5, which will open in 2012, connecting Lewisham and Victoria. But most of the existing routes seem to be providing little more than cosmetic change, with many routes fragmented and frequently blocked by parked cars. Have you noticed any substantive improvement in your journey as a result of the ugly blue ribbons?

45 comments:

Monkeyboy said...

I'm not a cyclist but as a driver I'd be less inclined to stray onto a very obvious blue lane. Whether it's effective enough is another question. Will also have to come down hard on people who do park on them, no doubt the Jeremy clarkson tendency will froth at the mouth at their roads being shared with others

lb said...

I note that Boris claimed the lanes were not "Barclays blue", though the Barclays-linked advertising rather seems to suggest that they are.

As an (occasional) cyclist I'm happy with anything that keeps me away from cars and lorries, and as an (equally occasional) driver I'm equally happy to be kept away from cyclists. So they have to be a good thing. The existing routes are very fragmented, as you point out.

THNick said...

The colour was agreed on pre-Barclays I believe (but I'm sure they're happy with it given people will now assume it is Barclays' blue)

There was a hysterical to the point of parody article in Grauniad about this this week, and how Boris is "selling our heritage" by getting Barclays to sponsor the bike scheme, unlike the one in Paris (which is being run by an advertising company in return for more outdoor advertising space).

drakefell debaser said...

I use what will become route 5 each week day and if the superhighway provides a continuous lane the whole way, which motorists, bus drivers and people on scooters acknowledge and stay out of, then great. I am doubtful though because cycle lanes are a late addition to what are often narrow and overcrowded roads.

There is also a deeper problem of some peoples attitudes to anyone on a bike coz we don’t pay the road tax bullsh*t.

That said, the arrival of the cycle hire scheme is brilliant and I hope that this will encourage more investment into the infrastructure in time. We have a long way to go because I was watching a programme on BBC4 the other night which claimed that Portland, Oregon in the US has had $100 million invested into bicycle friendly infrastructure and it has been a huge success.

I read that article in the Guardian, it was awful – since when did a person’s birth right include a cycle lane. I would rather the £25 million came from a corporate than the public purse and I suspect Barclays will not want to be associated with something that doesn’t work. Besides, aren’t we largely desensitised to branding these days?

Headhunter said...

I welcome anything that makes people feel safer on the roads and more able to cycle. Haven't we just been fined because London's air quality has exceeded EU safe standards for more than a month or something? I'm sure Bozo's cancellation of the CC extension, LEZ and other project will not/has not helped.

Have only used a superhighway once, before they were officially open though. They certainly appear very striking on the road, more obvious than the green cycle lanes. There don't seem to be any in SE London. The Lewisham to Victoria one has yet to open. SE London left out again!

Not sure how much benefit they will actually provide, I have seen plenty of helmet cam footage on You Tube showing drivers completely ignoring them, parking in them, buses pulling over into them etc. I've heard a lot of people say that in reality they are just like the green bike lanes but painted Barclays blue.

Seen plenty of the cycle hire scheme docks about and now the bikes themselves. Have also seen quite a few people buzzing about on them round central London. I have to hand it to the installers of the bike hire docking stations, they really worked fast. On Monday I hadn't seen a single docking station and now they seem to be on every street corner! They have literally sprung up over night! Hopefully there will be enough bikes to go round - saw that when Paris 1st opened its Velib scheme, it had 10,000 bikes (and now has 24,000). London has merely 6,000 and London's a much bigger place!

Sue said...

Slightly off topic, but are any other cyclists rather puzzled by the improvement works carried out to the cycle lane along Brookmill Road over the past week or two, which include having positioned 3 signposts in the middle of the cycle lane, presumably to add an extra slalom feature for those of us cycling from Lewisham to Deptford?

@THNick: Ken Livingstone planned to use money from the Western Extension to the congestion charge to finance the bike hire scheme. Boris shelved that extension and thus had to resort to a rather unsubtle sponsorship scheme to pay for the bike hire. Glad it's up and running however.

Bumbags said...

@drakefell debaser re. people in cars shouting 'pay road tax' at cyclists.
I GET SOOOOOO ANGRY about this- mainly because I do pay road tax on my car. I've shouted some fairly choice replies at drivers.
Not sure why everyone presumes cycling/driving are exclusive lifestyle choices. Am I in that much of a minority doing both? Maybe I should get a big sign for the back of my bike saying 'my other vehicle is a tax-raising motor car!'?

Name said...

But you should be made to pay road tax for the bike too. If I have 2 cars, I pay for each, if they are on the road. If I have a car and a bike I should pay for both if on the road.

Brockley Nick said...

@Name - no because the road tax doesn't cover the cost of road use, that's paid for by general taxation. It covers the cost of licensing. You don't need to license a bike.

That aside of course, a bike causes practically no wear and tear on a road surface and takes up virtually no space on the road network.

Headhunter said...

Also not least because road tax hasn't existed since 1936/37. It was abolished by Winston Chrurchill who very presciently said that he did not want one road user to feel they had priority over any other.

Motorists pay VED (Vehicle Excise Duty) which is levied on emissions, so effectively, cyclists, who do not create emissions, do actually pay the correct VED - zero. Also VED is not used to fund road construction and repair, it pours into the general pot of money used by the government to fund anything from schools to nuclear weapons. Not roads. Roads are largely funded by local council tax so as a local council taxpayer but non car owner I can happily claim to have paid for 1 or 2 patches of the potholed strips of tarmac we call roads in Lewisham!

There is also considerable debate as to whether, even if taxes paid by motorists (VED, duty on fuel etc) were dedicated to roads and motoring, whether they would actually cover the costs incurred. The real cost of motoring, despite increases in taxes, has decreased considerably since the 1970s and is now far more accessible to all.

A study in 1996 worked out that about £16.1bn was received in taxes and duties from motorists but £50.8 was spent on things like road repairs, damage caused by air pollution, losses to business through congestion and cost to the NHS of death and injury.

See this and as this points out, why should VED be spent on roads specifically? You don't expect the money you pay in tax on beer to be spent on pubs or the tax on tobacco to be spent on newsagents and tobacco plantations?

Deptford Dame said...

A major improvement has been made to the cycle crossing at Newington Butts on the Elephant & Castle cycle bypass as a result of the new superhighway no 7 - what was a rather dangerous crossing has been made safer, although it does seem to take a lot longer for the lights to change. However I did notice this morning that all the bikes at the adjacent docking stations had been very tidily defaced by anti-Barclays stickers. The stickers had been carefully printed in Barclays corporate colours and fonts, and stuck to the wheel guards right over the Barclays logo.

Headhunter said...

DD - Meanwhile, in your manor, cyclists have been dealt a blow with the rephasing of the lights at Deals Gateway/Greenwich High Road. There was 3 way lights phasing however this has been replaced by 2 way phasing. Cyclists (and motorists) exitting the cycle track (or new flats estate development) under the DLR rail near Deptford Bridge onto Deal Gateway are forced to wait at the red lights about 10 metres back from the junction edge.

When the lights change to green, the traffic crossing to turn right from Greenwich HR, from the other side, ignores the presence of cyclists going straight on and turns across its path.

Last weekend I was almost mown down by a stream of motor traffic turning right across my path whilst I wanted to move straight across the junction to Greenwich HR! A couple the drivers even had the temerity to yell at me as they slammed their brakes on, even though I had full right of way!!

This has been raised with TfL but their response to a Lewisham cyclists group simply said something along the lines of hard luck, the new lights phasing helps [motor] traffic flow. I suppose these changes have been made in a similar vein to the proposed removal of the pedestrian crossings on Lewisham Way, reported here a few weeks back.

Once again, motor=might on the roads.

Name said...

"takes up virtually no space on the road network."

No. I disagree with this strongly. The bike & rider have small 'footprint' on the road itself. However the amount of displacement they cause is much much greater.

As many a bus user, in a bus lane behind a out of breath cyclist will tell you.
The extra checks pedestrians & motorists have to make.

Cycling has many benefits, but to overlook the issues is ensure that the Clarkson's of this world regard cyclists as self righteous so & so's.

Monkeyboy said...

HH, beat me on the winston Churchill thing. He was also anti protectionism which will nodoubt confuse the BNP.

Anonymous said...

Yeah I agree with name about the displacement thing. As a driver I'm much likelier to snuggle up to the rear end of a car than a cyclist through fear of them doing something erratic and me knocking them off. Plus the odd slower cyclist will forget how slow they are going and take up a car width of the road slowing everyone down.

love detective said...

no doubt the bit where he says 'fascism has rendered a service to the entire world' redeems him somewhat in their eyes

Lou Baker said...

I cycle several miles a day - and think any improvements are very welcome.

The hire scheme is a great idea but it needs to be, rapidly, extended to the suburbs. The idiotic objections of Network Rail to having docking stations near railway stations should be dismissed too. Fewer West Cornwall Pasty Co stands and more bikes would be good.

The blue lanes are a great idea but they're not much of an improvement. For example the Lewisham-Victoria route goes along the A202 - not a nice road for cyclists. Parallel to the A202 is an existing route along Surrey Canal walk and through Burgess Park which is much nicer. In distance terms it's about a quarter of a mile further than the road but it's peaceful, quiet, traffic free and would be a much more sensible place to put a cycle track.

But the two biggest problems for cyclists remain where to leave bikes and changing. There are woefully few racks - though actually Southwark's getting good at providing spaces. Secondly, not enough work places gave changing rooms and shower facilities. This should be made a pre-requisite of all future commercial planning applications.

Headhunter said...

Name and anonymous - I understand that cyclists may displace traffic slightly and cause traffic to slow, even cause people to lose a few hugely valuable seconds of their day, however you're arguing this from the motorists point of view.

As far as I'm concerned cyclists have as much right to displace traffic as cars. Cyclists and car drivers pay for roads as explainked above so neither has the right to claim more right to the road.

In fact when I cycle with my cycle club we reach average speeds of 17-19mph over distances of 40-70 miles. This is on largely traffic free country roads. In central London on my commute to work I am hindered by nose to tail motor traffic blocking up Old Kent Road, the roads through the City etc which means that my average can drop as low as 14-15mph. This is due to car traffic which as a cyclist I could argue shouldn't be there as it displaces more than its fair share of space on the road.

Bumbags said...

@name Headhunter is right- it's emissions that dictate tax- that's why electric cars are exempt. We all make our choices according to cost/convenience- If you choose to have two cars, that's up to you. Luckily for you petrol is the main kind of driving tax, so you're only being taxed by whatever you're driving, how big the engine is, and how far you go.

elsiemaud boy said...

As ususal Love Detective quotes entirely out of context - Churchill's quote was in 1927 when visiting Italy. He was commenting on the fight against Lenninism (totally understable for a Tory boy). The whole of Europe was standing one side or the other - and battles were starting in Spain, Germany and here in London. Not condoning his position; but very different if he had said it post World War II when Europe had experienced the horrors of Nazi Germany.

Lou Baker said...

@elsie

Kudos for turning the topic from cycle lanes to the Second World War and Leninism.

Would anyone like to try to get aubergines and parakeets into the discussion too? Just so we've really covered all bases.

love detective said...

8 years later then elsie:-

One may dislike Hitler's system and yet admire his patriotic achievement. If our country were defeated, I hope we should find a champion as indomitable to restore our courage and lead us back to our place among the nations

Headhunter said...

Well that quote is pretty accurate. For all Hitler's faults (and I'm certainly no fan of his!) he knew how to motivate a nation and build enormous patriotism! That's just plain old respect for one's foe. Not support for fascism!

love detective said...

there's a differnce between having respect for your foe, and wishing (upon your country's defeat) your foe was in charge of your country

Name said...

I don't have two cars, I am discussing this from a point of principle.

Brockley Jon said...

I'm not too fussed about the superhighways. From what I've seen of them so far, they are rapidly turning into flecks of blue paint scattered across the road and pavements. Before you know it, the drivers won't even notice they are there. Just a decent dashed line and a squiffy bike logo on the road is all we need to keep the cars away.

Here's something no one else has mentioned re. the hire bikes - as a pretty proficient cyclist, I am worried about all the novice cyclists hitting the roads with little or no experience of city riding. Once the roads are full of newbie cycle-tourists I wonder whether drivers and pedestrians will start to hate cyclists even more than they do already!?

One final positive cyclist thing, especially for those heading in to town from Honor Oak/Peckham Rye way, is that they have finally finished the roadworks along Rye Lane and we now have a dedicated cycle lane to get to the joint pedestrian/cycle crossing before you get to the Surrey Canal path! Hoorah.

Headhunter said...

Another thing with the superhighways is that they're already being dug up by utility companies etc. Have already seen a photo posted on the net of one of the superhighways cordened off with a big trough dug right through the middle of it.

The main problem with the cycle hire scheme for me is that I'm sure no one using the bikes will be wearing helmets. Not that bike helmets make riders invincible but they certainly might help in a bit of a spill...

Anonymous said...

I notice the bike hire points preetty much miss out almost all south London. Typical!

Deptford dame said...

@headhunter - yes I've been following the debate about the Deal's Gateway debacle - and have experienced it myself. Thanks for reminding me to blog about it. I believe TFL is intending to improve the road marking, but given that almost all the traffic from the high road turns across the exit to Deal's Gateway (and has spent years doing so on while having right of way) I don't believe this is going to have any effect.

Marc said...

Its a long time coming, even though in large part its a comsmetic answer. Cyclists do need to be protected. Being Dutch, I do have to laugh when I see a pavement painted and a lampost smack in the middle of the cyclist path. I guess its progression of a kind, some might view it as meeting local targets.
Unforuntley I need to use the car to commute, the only thing I dont like about non responsible cyclists in London is when they take two lanes (no lane dedication), cycle against one way traffic & go through red lights :).

Headhunter said...

i know what you mean marc but just to add some balance, things i don't like about drivers is that thry talk on their mibiles whilst driving, speed, park cross pavements and they also jump red lights, try commuting through central london and you'll see thisin action

Anonymous said...

The key fob thing arrived today so I tried out the scheme. I rolled up at London Bridge and found a cycle station nearby. A row of twenty or so bikes and a couple helpers to tell you how it all works. You have to activate the key first either through the website or by phone so your account is all setup linking the key, your account and your bank.

There seemed to be a few interested tourists standing around who were disappointed to find you could not use it for directly with a credit/debit card. That 'casual' use does not start for another few weeks.

They looked on enviously as I put the key into a slot next one of the bikes and watched the little lights go red, amber and then green and the bike was released from the rack.

They are a bulky design. No basket but a couple of hooks and an elastic strap to hold secure a bag to the front handle bars. The gears are set for easy riding. You would be really pedaling like a hamster in a wheel to get a decent turn of speed. Nonetheless I soon got the wind in my hair and was off toward Waterloo.

I then realised that I had 30minutes only and no way of working out how long I had left before I got charged. So...you need to check your watch and have some sort of warning five minutes before your time is up.

Why could they not have built a timer into the design?

I passed several bike racks and decided to dock the bike at Waterloo and take another. This did not work, for two reasons. Firstly you have to shove the bike home into the rack so the electronics connect. Secondly they don't let you use your key for another five minutes. Presumably this is to discourage people from using one free half hour after the next in a longer journey. Not sure if I like that idea, 30mins is not long enough in my opinion.

If a rack is full, you are given and extra 15minutes to get to the next one. The racks have a kiosk with a map showing the nearest bike racks in the area. You can also put your key fob in and it will tell you about your journeys and how much you were charged. It also has a credit card reader for when 'casual' use is enabled in a few weeks time.

There is no lock on the bike, the idea is you park it in one of the bike racks. That seems to be quite a clever idea, avoiding all kinds of security issues. It also has a built in dynamo and automatic lights for when it gets dark.

On returning home I logged into the Barclays cycle hire website and it showed a near record of my journeys around central London. All less than 30mins and with no charge.

I paid £45 for a years membership and I have put the fob with my other keys. I think I will get a lot of use out of it.

If only the stations extended further than zone 1, these could be the perfect solution for getting home after the trains have stopped at night instead of the long wait for the night bus.

Seems to be a good start, I daresay there will be a few tweaks along the way and, I hope and extension beyond zone 1.

Anonymous said...

The key fob thing arrived today so I tried out the scheme. I rolled up at London Bridge and found a cycle station nearby. A row of twenty or so bikes and a couple helpers to tell you how it all works. You have to activate the key first either through the website or by phone so your account is all setup linking the key, your account and your bank.

There seemed to beca few interested tourists standing around who were disappointed to find you could not use it for directly with a credit/debit card. That 'casual' use does not start for another few weeks.

They looked on enviously as I put the key into a slot next one of the bikes and watched the little lights go red, amber and then green and the bike was released from the rack.

They are a bulky design. No basket but a couple of hooks and an elastic strap to hold secure a bag to the front handle bars. The gears are set for easy riding. You would be really pedaling like a hamster in a wheel to get a decent turn of speed. nonetheless I soon got the wind in my hair and was off towards Waterloo.

I then realised that I had 30minutes only and no way of working out how long I had left before I got charged. So...you need to check your watch and have some sort of warning five minutes before your time is up.

What could they not have built a timer into the design?

I passed several bike racks and decided to dock the bike at Waterloo and take another. This did not work, for two reasons. Firstly you have to shove the bike home into the rack so the electronics connect. Secondly they don't let you use your key for another five minutes. Presumably this is to discourage people from using one free half hour after the next in a longer journey. Not sure if I like that idea, 30mins is not long enough in my opinion.

If a rack is full, you are given and extra 15minutes to get to the next one. The racks have a kiosk with a map showing the nearest bike racks in the area. You can also put your key fob in and it will tell you about your journeys and how much you were charged. It also has a credit card reader for when 'casual' use is enabled in a few weeks time.

There is no lock on the bike, the idea is you park it in one of the bike racks. That seems to be quite a clever idea, avoiding all kinds of security issues. It also has a built in dynamo and automatic lights for when it gets dark.

On returning home I logged into the Barclays cycle hire website and it showed a near record of my journeys around central London. All less than 30mins and with no charge.

I paid £45 for a years membership and I have put the fob with my other keys. I think I will get a lot of use out of it.

If only the stations extended further than zone 1, these could be the perfect solution for getting home after the trains have stopped at night instead of the long wait for the night bus.

This seems to be a good start.

Hugh said...

An enjoyable thread to read over weekend breakfast. I must admit to not having kept abreast of the Barclays scheme since I have my own bike and cycke all over London, not just on the reatively few new designated blue routes.

Anything that raises awareness of the possibility of cycling rather than taking a vehicle is, I think, a good thing for London, although of course the opportunities that arise from London having perhaps its first genuinely pro-cycling civic leader in history could be yet be missed.

Something I think would make a difference, and this would presumably form part of a wider review of health provision, is tax refunds for cyclists. Yes, not just Cycle 2 Work, which allows for tax-efficient purchasing of bikes and bike kit, but credits for cycling commuters against their annual tax bill. A microchip attached to the frame would allow every journey to be tracked accurately and for something like a mileage credit to be claimed through one's self-assessment return. Imagine earning, say, £200 a year for cycling to work...

Monkeyboy said...

So long as there isn't a tax debit attached to the occasional kebab you have my support

Brockley Jon said...

Anon, thanks for taking the time to write about your experience of the bike hire scheme. Really interesting.

Anonymous said...

Well today I had my second experience of the cycle scheme and it did not go that well.

To London Bridge and saddling up I tootled off the Waterloo to meet a friend. The plan was to see who could get to Tate Britain the fastest. Bike or tube.

I went to the bike rack at Jubilee Gardens near the London Eye and inserted my key. The lights went amber then red. I walked to the next bike rack - the same. Eventually I found an attendant who said the system was down and no-one could hire a bike until they had rebooted the server.

I decided to cross the river at Westminster and looked for another bike rack. They seemed a bit sparse in that area according to the map, the nearest one seemed to be in Old Queen St, just off Parliament Sq. But it wasn't there. Annoyed, I tracked down another off Great Smith St and pedalled off to Tate Britain to see the Henry Moore exhibition. Looked for the bike rack clearly marked on the map at Milbank Pier almost opposite the Tate but it seemed not to exist. So I pedalled onward to Vauxhall Bridge and found a bike rack by the traffic lights. I belly ached about this to the attendant. She said the map would be uptodate once all the racks have actually been installed. Hmmmm!

She showed me how the kiosk next to the bike rack works. You insert your key and if the rack is full it will show you the next nearest rack and its status in terms of free spaces. There is also an option to list your journeys and print out a receipt. I was a bit anxious I had over run my 30 free minutes so I did this and found I was in the clear.

I legged it to Tate Britain and arrived five minutes too late to see the exhibition. :-{

I called my friend expecting them to be already inside, but no, they were stuck on a bus. It had been a bit of trying time of the underground as well and they had ended up at the Oval and directed to take a bus. Typical Sinday service, I suppose.

I think, the bike hire system will need a few weeks for them to finish off the work outstanding and sort out their servers. At the moment it seems a bit too unreliable. I was very annoyed that the map appears to be a work of fiction at the moment. It also is not particularly high resolution and it is not exactly clear where the are exactly. Making a comparison between the map sent in the post and the website map....reveals a fair few differences. maybe the map on the website is a bit more up to date. Then I noticed a pdf printable version.

Hmmm, on examination, it seems a bit more accurate, the missing bike rack at Old Queen St is not there, quite a few are missing. The bike rack next to the Tate Britain is also missing, but it clearly marked on the website map. The paper map sent in the post is clearly a picture of how things will look when it all fully rolled out. But this downloadable map is different from the map on the website. That is downright confusing.

OK Boris!

What is rolled out where?

I need an up to date map of where the racks are located. I would also like to know what sort of service level I can expect from the system that controls all this. What sort of reliability can I expect?

Headhunter said...

Anon - I expect the reason they don't have counters on the bikes is that they want to make a bit of money on it! The same reason they don't allow you to dock a bike and take another for 5 mins. It's not a free service! Anyway, it only costs a quid for the 2nd half hour so it's hadly a budget buster.

Hugh - "London having perhaps its first genuinely pro-cycling civic leader in history."

You don't mean Boris do you??! Bwah, ha, ha! The bike scheme was ken's idea! Along with the ELL and just about every other decent civic transport plan. Bozo has just taken the credit yet again. This is the man who is about to reduce the size of the congestion charge, stopped the plan to charge gas guzzler cars more money in CC and stopped the Thames Estuary crossing plan. What with repahsing traffic lights and now a plan to get rid of some ped crossings the man has single handedly made it easier and easier to drive in Central London with the result that we have now been fined by the EU for having the worst air quality in Europe. Bozo on a bike was purely an election ploy, pretty clear to see that!

Anonymous said...

Making money?

But the mayor said it was a communist experiment!

"These are public property now. It's absolutely crucial that people recognise that they belong to all of us. I'm a Conservative mayor, but what we're doing is a gigantic communist experiment."

The London mayor insisted that it was his idea and not his predecessor Ken Livingston's, before he ended the interview.

http://bit.ly/a5lQEn

lb said...

A "communist experiment"? I don't recall the White Sea canal being sponsored by Barclays.

Headhunter said...

None of the schemes across Europe operates at zero cost, so I guess someone has to make some money somewhere.

As for Boris claiming responsibility Ken says he started the ball rolling and set the scheme up. I suppose at least Boris didn't can it.

Tyrwhitt Michael said...

I suprised someone as wealthy as Hugh (or at least as wealthy as claims to be) needs to go cap in hand to the Government for a Tax rebate.

Feeling the pinch are we?

On another tack HH, how are cyclists classed as producung zero emissions? All that aerobic exercise chucks out litres of CO2 which we are told is the worst of the greenhouse gasses?

;-)

Elsiemaud boy said...

At risk of subverting the thread again - I can't really let this one from LD go

"8 years later then elsie:-

One may dislike Hitler's system and yet admire his patriotic achievement. If our country were defeated, I hope we should find a champion as indomitable to restore our courage and lead us back to our place among the nations"


So still BEFORE world war 2. He is obviously ocmmenting on how Germany, defeated from World War 1 and struggling with hyperinflation had created employment and strength in the nation (remember thsi is why the people were voting Hitler). Your quote even says that he does not agree with the process. Try harder LD if you want to brand Churchill a fascist - and try a quote AFTER WW2.

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MrSkill said...

cycling is getting quite interesting, i want to try this

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