The huge growth of bicycle sharing should be a boon for central areas such as Clerkenwell. These hireable bikes drive a more sustainable transport policy, save congestion and keep commuters and travellers off transport that relies on non-renewable energy.
But in common with many other world cities, bike sharing has created its own problems – most notably, that of “dockless” bike parking. With many bikes seemingly to be parked anywhere, they create a hazard for pedestrians: particularly the elderly and disabled.
Now they are being acted upon – with the cooperation of most of the providers – and there is an upcoming London bylaw which will give councils across London legal power to fine dockless bike operators for bikes that obstruct pavements. This is due to come into force this year and backed by Transport for London.
Islington Council already has a Memorandum of Understanding to set out standards and best practise with dockless cycle operators including procedures for reporting obstructive bikes.
It encourages operators to sign up to the Memorandum T and most dockless cycle operators – including Lime, Jump and Freebike – have signed, with the additional security of geo-tracking for each bike. Just one, Mobike, is operating in Islington outside the Memorandum.
Cllr Rowena Champion, Islington Council’s executive member for environment and transport said: “Responsible dockless bike sharing is an excellent way for people to get around and it’s better for health and better for the environment. However, riders should be courteous to other residents and not leave bikes blocking pavements or causing an obstruction to pedestrians and especially to disabled people. “We have a Memorandum of Understanding, which sets out clear standards and service guidelines for dockless bike operators and we take up specific concerns with them when appropriate. We are also working with other councils to introduce a pan-London bylaw.”
The City of London Corporation’s Planning and Transportation Committee, to the south and east of the EC1 area, has voted to continue dockless bike parking arrangements after a six-month trial with Beryl and Freebike, which led to almost nine in ten cycles being parked in designated bays. It has now also decided to allow new operators into the sector, as it is thought to have improved the compliance of other operators. The trial allowed for a 90- minute time limit to pick up poorly parked bikes, and Beryl and Freebikes gained an average of 40 minutes.
“Dockless bike hire is now a vital component of London’s transport offer, but it has always come with challenges with regard to parking,” said Alastair Moss, chair of the Planning and Transportation Committee at the City of London Corporation. “Opening this approach to other operators will provide users with more choice while continuing to offer control over our streets and pavements.”