Greenwich Council mulls setting up alternatives to ‘Boris bikes’ scheme

A prototype London Cycle Hire scheme bike, pictured in TfL’s offices at North Greenwich in 2015

Greenwich Council is considering setting up its own cycle hire schemes, after once again ruling out paying for TfL’s Santander Cycles to reach the borough.

The council has rejected a new call to work on an expansion of the London Cycle Hire network, following a petition handed to the council last month by Conservative councillor Matt Clare.

While the Labour administration does not object to the idea, it has baulked at the idea of paying the estimated £2 million cost of bringing the scheme south east.

“Boris bikes” have been a common sight in Greenwich town centre since the scheme was extended to the Isle of Dogs, with a cycle dock close to the Greenwich Foot Tunnel at Island Gardens. However, coverage is poor south of the river, with just a single hire dock east of Tower Bridge.

Now a report going to the council’s Highways Committee next week reveals that two independent hire schemes are in the pipeline as the town hall gauges demand for a scheme of its own.

An electric bike hire scheme is due to launch in east Greenwich and Greenwich town centre on 8 April as part of the City Hall-funded Low Emissions Neighbourhood (LEN) scheme. The 16-bike scheme will “encourage residents of the LEN to trial more sustainable alternatives to the private motor vehicle”.

Electric bikes would certainly work on the hilly terrain around Greenwich, Blackheath and Charlton; although plans to set up a hire scheme in the borough of Haringey – which features some punishing inclines around Highgate and Muswell Hill – have been dropped after TfL said they were poor value for money.

There are also plans being developed to make folding Brompton bicycles available at Greenwich station. Bromptons are already available at a handful of locations in London including Peckham Rye station, while there used to be a scheme at the University of Greenwich.

The report says: “Development work on the implementation of a Brompton Bike Dock is in progress. If the scheme were to progress 8 Brompton Bikes would be available at Greenwich Station. Residents would be able to hire these for just £2.50 per day with no initial sign up fee. By comparison the Santander Cycle Hire scheme costs £2 to access per day, the first 30 minutes is free and then £2 for every 30 minutes.

“Based on the outcome of these trials proposals may be developed for wider expansion of these or similar schemes to suitable locations in the Borough.”

“In the longer term, a variety of public bike sharing models are being evaluated. This includes traditional dock based models as well as ‘floating’ models that do not require substantial infrastructure to operate.”

Despite looking at different models, the report says Greenwich would still be interested in having the London Cycle Hire scheme – so long as it didn’t have to pay for it. “Officers will continue to work with TfL to ensure that TfL is aware that the Council would welcome an extension of the Mayor’s cycle hire scheme into the Royal Borough and to explore the opportunity to fund any expansion at no cost to the Council.”

With TfL facing steep financial cuts, any expansion of the loss-making scheme (it requires a £10m subsidy each year) would have to come from councils or developers, meaning its coverage of London is likely to remain somewhat lopsided. The most recent boost to the network came last year when bikes were made available in the Olympic Park, which is controlled by a City Hall agency.

While Greenwich has ruled out contributing to an expansion, Southwark Council said three years ago it would consider paying for the scheme to be extended to Bermondsey, Rotherhithe, Camberwell and Peckham, which would pave the way for a further expansion east.

But little has been heard since, and when asked last year, Sadiq Khan would only say that TfL was talking to “council planners and land developers in Rotherhithe” about expansion there.

3 comments

  1. I can’t see why Greenwich can’t just co-operate with TfL as it would likely mean residents in Greenwich if they want to use both having something like two fobs etc.

  2. The republic of Greenwich. £2m doesn’t seem much to extend the bikes to the borough given how much money is coming in from all the developments in Greenwich town centre, Deptford Creek and the Peninsular.

  3. Cycling is to be encouraged, but given the amount of other road traffic around (plus pedestrians) I would like to see some money put into cycling training to ensure the max possible safety for all. Bikes are vulnerable to larger/faster road traffic and pedestrians are vulnerable to them all.

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