Friday, 28 September 2012

The Mall - Time to Act

I wrote in a recent post about the need for a docking station on the Mall, to increase cycle hire access for tourists and workers in Westminster, to plug a gap in an area whch has too few docks, and to improve the provision of sustainable transport in a historic part of Westminster.

Today I received a reply from TfL to my query - the Mall is indeed being considered as a possible location for a dock. So this is the moment to make the voice of Boris bikers heard - please sign a petition (supported by this blog and Two Wheels Good) calling on TfL and Royal Parks to work towards a Mall docking station. In my previous post I gave details of how to write in support of a dock here. If you have 5 minutes, please do.

In other news ...

The proposed docking locations in Wandsworth have been revealed, to a mixed reception. A series of roadshows will be held in the coming weeks. Go if you can, and support the docks.

Thursday, 20 September 2012

Bring Boris bikes to NW5

Here's the latest petition from locals in NW5 to get Boris bikes to their area. I've signed, hope you will too. It's great to see local communities taking the initiative to get the bikes on their patch.

Time Out have an article on the southwest extension of the scheme. Nothing new in it, but great to see an article in a magazine which quite a few people will be reading.

UPDATE: Here's a news report on the NW5 petition.

Wednesday, 19 September 2012

Two snippets of BB news

I have been alerted to this very interesting visualisation of Boris bike journeys by TWG George. It shows that the most popular routes for Boris biking are to and from Kings Cross / St Pancras and Waterloo stations, and also across Hyde Park. What interests me is that fewer journeys seem to be made through Westminster. One can only guess reasons, but is it because the density of docks is insufficient, or perhaps because the cycling routes aren't as good? Comments welcome.

The residents of Lille Road have got in a fluster about Boris bikes coming to Normand Park. 'Nimbyism' in action, or a genuine concern? There is a wider question here about how much influence residents should have to block the expansion of cycle hire. It is just a guess, but I imagine the lack of docks in historic Limehouse stems from resident pressure against a docking station - they have already fought the presence of CS3 in their neighbourhood.

Saturday, 15 September 2012

The Mall - Time for the Bikes?

Boris bike on the Mall - no docks here
I have written extensively on this blog, and others have elsewhere, about the Cycle Hire scheme. But never in all that time have Boris bikers been approached by TfL to ask us where we would like to see a dock situated. Having commented on the Royal Parks, it is time to make a case, that being for a docking station on the Mall.

Back in 2009 Boris bikes were still in the planning stage. TfL submitted an application for a docking station on the Mall. It would have been quite big. But it was rejected. You can view the paperwork here. Remember that this all happened before the scheme was up and running. Since then a lot has changed, but the Mall still has no docking station. In fact, a quick look at a map of docking stations shows that the Mall is part of a really quite large area of London with no docks at all. This is despite it being an area popular with tourists and workers alike.

The arguments made against the docking station centred around the 'special character' of the area. Now, having worked in an office overlooking the Mall for nearly 8 years, I understand the Mall's character very well. On a normal working day, it is a dual carriageway, ferrying huge numbers of motor vehicles, mainly taxis in fact, through central London. It is noisy and polluted. Many cyclists also use the Mall, but it is not a tale of equals; motor traffic moves quickly and aggressively. On Sundays only the Mall excludes cars, and pedestrians and cyclists rule; it is, comparatively, a haven.

Considering the unpleasant state of the Mall at present, with its noisy and polluting traffic, what possible reasons might prevent installsation of a docking station for cycle hire? One reason advanced is that it may clutter the 'special character' of the Mall. But, as the Palace rightly points out in its submission (which supported a dock) as long as these can be removed on ceremonial occasions (which they can), there is no objection. This has happened seamlessly for Olympic events this summer in fact. The docks themselves are less than a metre high. The tallest part of the set-up is the terminal, but as this incorporates maps, it would actually benefit those using the area. In short, the docking station would clutter the Mall far less than the current noise and pollution of constantly moving traffic.

Now that the objections to a Mall dock have been set aside, let us turn to the benefits of a cycle hire dock, and the reasons why the Mall in particular is an appropriate location:

- there is ample space for a docking station.
- a docking station at this location will have very high levels of useage from local workers and tourists alike. Visitors to the Mall, St James's Park and the Palace neeed a dock which is in clear view.
- more BCH cyclists will help reduce motor traffic through the Mall area by getting more people on bikes. Therefore the whole area will be safer for pedestrians, have cleaner air, have less noise pollution, and be less congested with motor traffic.
- There is no docking station convenient for the Mall at present, restricting use. The nearest are towards Wellington Arch (at some distance) and in Waterloo Place (try carrying your bike up all those steps).

In the years since the original application was submitted, there has been a shift in perceptions of the economic and environmental benefits of cycling. Cycle hire has been embraced, and almost 40,000 journeys are made each day. The Olympic and Paralympic Games have inspired us to lead more active lives, and created a positive vibe for cycling. With expansion of the Boris bike scheme due in 2013, this is the moment to seize to bring the bikes to a key part of historic and cultural Westminster.

Please support the call for a Boris bike dock on the Mall - 'Two Wheels Good' is calling for the same. Write to the Royal Parks (, TfL ( and also your local London Assembly representative. If you're in Westminster, let your MP and councillors know your views. Together we can make a change.

Thursday, 13 September 2012

Boris bikes going south and west

TfL has today released further details of the next phase of expansion of the Boris bikes scheme. Read all about it here. Late 2013/early 2014 is a little later than I think most people were anticipating, but it is still good news.


A map of the expansion area is available here

A map of proposed locations in Hammersmith and Fulham is available here

If anyone has further details, please post a comment

Around the Royal Parks on a Boris bike - part 3

Endangered species - docks at London Zoo
We've only waited a year since part 2, but off we cycle to the Regent's Park for our final instalment. And we're in for a disappointment.

I started my trip around the park by entering through Hanover Gate and turning left onto Outer Circle. This large road runs right round the park. It is wide and doesn't carry too much traffic. However, the cars on it are quite fast-moving, and there is no continuous cycle lane. You'd think, being the main route round the park, there would be many docking stations. In fact the only one is in the carpark of London Zoo, with another a little off the Circle in Gloucester Slips carpark.
The Broad Walk

Regent's Park contains one cycle route. Yes, just one. It's a shared pedestrian/cycle route running north-south, the Broad Walk. So I took it, and a few minutes later you're done. What should I do now, go back again? To give it a bit of credit, Broad Walk is very pleasant, but it hardly represents a network of cycle routes through the park. I turn right onto Chester Road then left onto Inner Circle, which is like Outer Circle, only smaller. There are no docking stations on Inner Circle.

To avoid circling endlessly, I turned south towards the only docking station which is actually fairly centrally located, in the carpark of the Tennis Centre. The entrance to this carpark is quite hidden, so many a Boris biker I'm sure has sailed past the dock. Continuing past the tennis courts and over York Bridge, we're back onto Outer Circle. I turned left and exited the park.

The cycling infrastructure for Boris bikers in the Regent's Park is dreadful. The Royal Parks website tells you that 4.5 miles of park roads are available for cycling. Yes indeed, but these aren't really in the park, they are roads bordered by hedges, and are mainly two large circles.

I would like to see at least one more cycle route through the park, probably across the large open green area of sports pitches to the north of the boating lake. Outer Circle deserves at least two large docking stations, and one on Inner Circle, probably close to the Broad Walk cycling route, would be useful.

Since I wrote about the other parks back in 2011 the Royal Parks have done almost nothing to improve conditions for cyclists. No new docks, no new routes. The crossing from Wellington Arch into Hyde Park has been remodelled so that the conflict between cyclists and pedestrians is possibly worse than before. Triangle carpark dock in Hyde Park has been removed for the Olympics for most of the year, I believe it will be back by next month. There is a new docking station at Green Park station, but you cannot access the park itself from here because there is no cycle route in.

Political will is needed to make the Royal Parks better for cycling. If you're bringing your family or friends to London to cycle, take them to Hyde Park, the other parks have a long way to go before they're fit for cycling.

Monday, 10 September 2012

Preparing for the Bikes to Go West

On Sunday I met up with fellow blogger George (Two Wheels Good) and we took Boris bikes from Notting Hill down to the Fulham Road via Brompton Cemetery, then back through The Boltons and Kensington Gardens, eventually docking on Campden Hill. It was a warm afternoon, and cyclists were out in force.

"I love Boris Bikes": George of 'Two Wheels Good'
This area is right on the border of the current cycle hire area (some of it part of the mini western expansion to Westfield back in April). The 2013 expansion will, all being well, take in the rest of Kensington and Chelsea and push out to Hammemsith and Fulham. It is a beautiful part of London, and has some good streets for cycling. I have no doubt Boris bikes will prove popular in this part of west London.

K&C borough are currently consulting on increasing the permeability of more streets. Often it's as simple as adding an 'except cyclists' sign under an existing no entry sign. Bigger streets require a little more work, but it can be done. To maximise the benefits of cycle hire in K&C and elsewhere, this is an important development, allowing access to docks from both directions, and maximising the journeys which can be made by Boris bike, both in terms of shortening routes and avoiding busier roads.

It's easy to get your view to the borough, simply email

Iconic west London: St George's on Campden Hill
You could suggest individual streets, but I suggested a bolder set of principles: all smaller streets to be two-way by use of the 'except cyclists' sign; an ongoing programme of opening up larger streets starting with those most used by cyclists; all roads containing docking stations to be earmarked for immediate two-way access.

The expansion of cycle hire in K&C and beyond is good news, but we need infrastructure on the streets to allow as many people as possible, both experienced and novice cyclists, to get the most out of it.

Saturday, 8 September 2012

Isle of Docks

Continuing my, very occasional, series of posts on Boris biking around town, I headed to the Isle of Dogs on Thursday to sample the cycle culture in a part of London where long-establishd communities rub shoulders with big business at Canary Wharf.

Plenty space here - docks on Manchester Road
Getting to the Isle is easy by bike - Superhighway 3 whizzes you out from the City through Shadwell and Limehouse and before you know it, you're at Westferry, ready to go south onto the island. To the east lie the big businesses of Canary Wharf, including the headquarters of Barclays, sponsors of our blue friends. It's here in the Wharf that the greatest density of docking stations is to be found, presumably because this is a prime location for commuting. Compared to the City, the docks seem bigger and more carefully planned to meet demand. My only real worry is the awkwardness of accessing the area - CS3 actually skirts round to the north and signed bike lanes into the heart of the business district seem non-existent.

At this point I cheated because I docked and took the DLR to Mudchute, which has an impressive docking station right outside the station. Shame it was inoperative. I walked across Millwall Park (a worthwhile visit in itelf) to Stebondale Road, and picked up a bike. Here on the east side of the island, there are numerous large docking stations. Manchester Road isn't too busy with traffic, and biking is fun. A useful station is positioned right next to Island Gardens, where you can grab a coffee. I took a walk through the Greenwich Foot Tunnel - the lifts have been refurbished, so it's now easier to cross with your bike. Don't take your Boris though, there are no docking stations in Greenwich yet.

By the Thames - Napier Avenue
Back on the island, I undocked again and headed east to Napier Avenue, in a beautiful riverside location. You have to know where it is though, it's so far from any other dock it doesn't appear on the '5 minute walking' maps on any of the terminals. Westferry Road is to the west of the island what Manchester Road is on the east, but narrower and with more traffic. Cycle lanes don't exist, nor it seems do any docks. Alpha Grove is a bit off the beaten track in a rather run-down estate - for the more modern riverside developments on this side of the island, there are no docks at all north of Napier Avenue. The other location where a dock is needed, but missing, is at South Quay - it would seem natural to install one here close to the DLR station. I finished my ride by heading south off Marsh Wall into the Crossharbour area, and finally docked at Millharbour.

I'm not sure whether Boris bikes get used much on the Isle of Dogs. It's not 'on the way' to anywhere, and apart from the business area at the north there isn't much to bring you onto the island unless you live there. The streets are quieter than a lot of London, which makes cycling pleasant, apart from Westferry Road, but with various docks (the watery kind!) and parks, it can be a bit awkward finding the best routes round the area. It's also an area still in transition, plenty new offices and flats are still going in. I hope more docks are built on the west side of the island, and at South Quay, but otherwise I think the bikes are a positive presence in this part of Tower Hamlets, and I'd recommend a ride out there.

Saturday, 1 September 2012

Hammersmith and Fulham - the Bikes are Coming

At last, some news from the west, where locations are at last being revealed for new docks in H&F borough. Read all about it here.

It's great news that all the stations will be of a minimum size of 25 docks. 60-70 stations overall doesn't sound a lot, but if they're well located, it should be good.