Last month residents of Lyon in France celebrated 5 years of their cycle hire scheme by cycling up to the mountain that overlooks the city. The hire bikes have become a part of every day life and are considered to be a big success. In London, on the 30th of July, our Cycle Hire Scheme will launch. There are a lot of similarities between the two which are both based on the Bixi design. The benefit we have is that we can learn from the experiences of older schemes. Here are some of the lessons picked up so far and a look at the lessons we have perhaps ignored.
Design of the Barclays Cycle Hire Bikes
In Lyon as well as in Paris each cycle hire bike comes with a bike lock. This is a flimsy lock that can easily be cut by a bike thief. The result is a high number of thefts. In London the bikes will not include a bike lock. Instead, TfL want to encourage people to return the bike to a nearby cycle hire dock. This not only keeps the bike safe but it also means a higher availability of bikes for use.
Design of the Hire Docks
In Lyon docking a bike is a two step process. The second part is when the bike is locked. This means a number of people push the bike into the dock thinking they are done and leave. A thief would then easily come along and simply pull the bike out. In London things have been redesigned to be much simpler. It will be a one step process of pushing in the bike.
Additionally the design in London has been revised so it is far more difficult to pry the bike out of its docking station. Again this is one of the reasons so many bikes were initially stolen in similar schemes.
An increase in accidents
The introduction of the Velo’V cycle hire scheme did result in an increase of 6% in cycle accidents. However, luckily these were none serious and none fatal. This is a positive sign but Lyon and London are of course two different cities. The traffic in London is more intense and so is the size of the city. The worry therefore, is that the introduction of the scheme will result in headlines about cyclists hit on a hire bike. There have been some efforts made to introduce additional safety and training for cyclists. TfL run a subsidised cycle training program in all the London boroughs. There are various other safety initiatives being trialled.
Making the Barclays Cycle Hire Scheme a success
Velo’V in Lyon is a success story of shifting the transportation mode from cars to bicycles. Initiatives such as less car parking and lower speed limits have all helped this change in attitude towards bikes. In London there are worrying signs of not wishing to compromise the experience of motorists to aid the progress of cycling and other methods of transport. The scrapping of the extension to the Congestion Charging zone is one of the most worrying signs.
Walking around Lyon and using the cycle hire bikes you get a sense of the positive impact the scheme has had on the city. There is less congestion, less noise pollution and it is a much more welcoming place to walk around. The scheme has been so successful that it was quickly rolled out to a much wider area.
London may be heading in the right direction but simply introducing the bikes is not enough to really boost cycling in the capital.