Thinking allowed — 30 July 2010

Today’s the day were gearing up to Boris’ big one, his pet project, that is. Well, it would be his idea if he hadn’t stolen it from Ken Livingstone, who adopted it from Paris mayor Bertrand Delande. Yes, today marks the start of a new revolution in which Boris intends to bring pedal power to London (at a cost of £140 million).

Boris believes the London Cycle Hire Scheme will encourage reluctant pedallers on to two wheels. Already under fire for having the bikes built 3,200 miles away and shipped here from Canada, what will happen to Boris’ credibility if they end up trashed or slung in the Thames?

The bikes are built like tanks, so say the manufacturers claiming the bikes will last more than seven years. Forty-two modifications have been made to the original design to make it more suitable for London’s weather. But one change Boris insisted on was to spray them Tory blue, the question needs to be asked, if Ken Livingstone get back into City Hall, will he have them sprayed red?

They may be indestructible to all but the criminally insane, but will Londoner’s who infrequently ride them have the survival streak necessary on today’s roads. And built with only three gears you’ll need the thighs of Chris Hoy to make it up Highgate Hill.

London seeks to emulate Montreal’s success where demand jumped from 3,000 to 5,000 in just one year. But Montreal is a much smaller city which hasn’t gone down the London route, beloved by yobbos, if you can break it, if you can’t paint it.

So a word to Boris; why have you not got the Oyster Card to work at the docking stations? Most users will be reluctant to use their credit card and get yourself a fishing rod, you might need it for fishing the bikes out of the Thames.

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(4) Readers Comments

  1. My daughter (47) bought a flat in Southwark and is a frequent user of “Boris Bikes” and thinks that they are fabulous.
    Your comment about Highgate Hill reminded me of the time in 1957 when I was doing the Knowledge, my partner Mickey Green and I met up with about four other guys and we were crowding around a map that had been placed at Whitestone Pond. None of us had come across anything like it. Harry Green looking at it noticed the transparent arrow pointing to the pond saying YOU ARE HERE. He pondered for a moment and said “How the hell do they know where we are?” Then all six of us took off down East Heath Road. Now that is some hill. Soon we were all going too fast and could not stop. One of the guys had an old fashioned (even then) bike with a 28″ frame and enormous wheels. He was way ahead of us all whooping and shouting. He had a front lamp on a bracket on the front fork. It got shaken free and fell into the spokes. The whole front wheel fell apart and he went posterior over mammary then went sliding down the hill on his arse ( my spell check does not have that word). We had to take him around to New End Hospital.

    • You certainly had to be fit in your day to do The Knowledge, we were spoilt with our Honda 90s

  2. The scheme does not seem to have been blessed with instant success. The announced completion date was missed and many stations are still empty of bikes. We also hear of operating problems costing users money which will have to be refunded.
     
    Is the scheme a good idea in principle? I would give it cautious approval, though I expect never to use it myself, but do have some reservations.
     
    As one who for a period cycled to work and back, I know how dangerous London’s streets are for cyclists. Vehicle drivers by and large hate cyclists or fail to notice their presence at crossings or when turning corners. I narrowly avoided potentially fatal accidents on several occasions owing to motorists’ lack of care. My conclusion is that more cycles on the roads will inevitably lead to more accidents.
     
    The opposite face of the coin is bad behaviour by cyclists. For every responsible cyclist who stays on the road and obeys traffic lights and signage, there are dozens who ride on pavements, ignore traffic lights, ride on the wrong side of the road, etc. These cyclists endanger themselves, other road users and pedestrians. This being so, I think it is a major mistake to have given cyclists extra concessions such as turning left on red lights or riding the wrong way along one-way streets. This blurs the rules and gives the impression that cyclists are exempted from the rules of the road.
     
    There appears to be no enforcement of traffic rules on cyclists and I have seen the most egregious misbehaviour ignored by police officers under whose noses it has been perpetrated.
     
    Cyclists operate in a strange limbo where they are neither pedestrian nor vehicle traffic. Many ignore, and are perhaps ignorant of, the rules of the road and openly flout them as well as behaving aggressively towards pedestrians whose space they usurp or are allowed to share in some circumstances (another gross error, in my opinion).
     
    I hope that whoever succeeds Bozo as mayor will inject some sense into the situation. My personal opinion is that cyclists using the public roads should be licensed and insured like any other road user but I do not have any hope that this will ever be the case. I think that politicians (and police) will go on turning a blind eye with the expected results.

    • In my opinion most cyclists are responsible, but must be mad as drivers are so selfish.
      Cycles should be insured and have an identifying tag, so if they break the law they can be traced, conversely local councils should be forced to provide better SAFE provision for them.

What do you have to say for yourself?