London gears up for two-wheeled revolution

The sprawling, congested city of London speeds towards a greener, nimbler future Friday with the launch of a new bike hire scheme aimed at kick-starting a cycling revolution ahead of the 2012 Olympics.

Commuters and tourists infuriated by heavy traffic and often overcrowded, unreliable public transport finally have a two-wheeled alternative, similar to schemes already in place in Paris, Shanghai and dozens of cities worldwide.

From Friday, they can pick up one of 6,000 bicycles from 400 docking stations in central London - including at the British Museum and Buckingham Palace - then pedal to their destination and drop it off, all for a small fee.

At least that's the plan. In Paris, a similar scheme is hugely popular but has also been marred by vandalism and theft, with organisers having to replace the entire bike fleet just two years after its launch.

Introduced by Mayor of London Boris Johnson, a keen cyclist himself, the project is intended to boost the number of bicycle journeys ahead of the 2012 Olympic Games in the capital.

"It's part of a programme of things that are going to change the urban landscape, what it's like to live in and move around in London," Johnson told reporters earlier this month.

"In the run-up to the Olympics, it's part of our vision of a cleaner, greener, safer city, where you have a cycling revolution."

The London 2012 organisers want 100 percent of the spectators attending the Games to arrive having taken public transport, walked or cycled, and are investing heavily in the subway network and trains to make it happen.

A congestion charge introduced in 2003 has helped ease the pressure on city roads, but International Olympic Committee official Denis Oswald warned this month that despite progress in preparations so far, "traffic is an issue".

Introduced alongside the new cycle scheme will be a spider-like network of "superhighways" to carry cyclists safely in and out of central London from the suburbs. The route that will pass the Olympic site is due to open next year.

The programme has been dubbed the Barclays Cycle Hire scheme after its main sponsor, but organisers hope the city's residents will come up with something a little more imaginative when it gets going.

More than 10,000 people had signed up for a subscription to the bike hire scheme before it went live, and the mayor's transport advisor, Kulveer Ranger, told AFP: "We think the scheme is going to be very popular."

The mayor wants to increase the percentage of journeys made by bicycle in the city from the current level of about two percent to five percent, and cycle campaigner Tom Bogdanovicz said this was easily achievable.

"There is an appetite out there, it's just the conditions need to be right," Bogdanovicz, campaigns manager at the London Cycle Campaign, told AFP.

Surveys have suggested a third of Londoners would like to try cycling, he said, adding that they just needed a push - the new scheme was "a great step".

Customers can chose from either a daily, weekly or monthly subscription, costing one pound (1.5 dollars, 1.1 euros), five pounds or 45 pounds respectively, and the first 30 minutes of any journey they make is free.

Thereafter they will be charged on a rapidly increasing scale, while they must leave a deposit in case they do not return the bike or they leave it damaged - a problem that has hit the Paris scheme.

Advertising giant JCDecaux, which runs the Paris scheme along with more than 60 across the world, was forced to replace 16,000 bicycles after they were returned with twisted handlebars, torn baskets and crushed wheels.

Another 8,000 disappeared, some of them turning up in eastern Europe.

Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
Travel
ebookHow to enjoy the perfect short break in 20 great cities
Independent Travel Videos
Independent Travel Videos
Simon Calder in Amsterdam
Independent Travel Videos
Simon Calder in Giverny
Independent Travel Videos
Simon Calder in St John's
Independent Travel Videos
Latest stories from i100
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
Independent Dating
and  

By clicking 'Search' you
are agreeing to our
Terms of Use.

ES Rentals

    iJobs Job Widget
    iJobs Travel

    Guru Careers: Events Coordinator / Junior Events Planner

    £24K + Excellent Benefits: Guru Careers: We are seeking an Events Coordinator ...

    Royal Yachting Association Cymru Wales: Chief Executive Officer

    Salary 42,000: Royal Yachting Association Cymru Wales: The CEO is responsible ...

    Guru Careers: Marketing Manager / Marketing Communications Manager

    £35-40k (DOE) + Benefits: Guru Careers: We are seeking a Marketing Communicati...

    Ashdown Group: Technical IT Manager - North London - Growing business

    £40000 - £50000 per annum: Ashdown Group: A growing business that has been ope...

    Day In a Page

    Sun, sex and an anthropological study: One British academic's summer of hell in Magaluf

    Sun, sex and an anthropological study

    One academic’s summer of hell in Magaluf
    From Shakespeare to Rising Damp... to Vicious

    Frances de la Tour's 50-year triumph

    'Rising Damp' brought De la Tour such recognition that she could be forgiven if she'd never been able to move on. But at 70, she continues to flourish - and to beguile
    'That Whitsun, I was late getting away...'

    Ian McMillan on the Whitsun Weddings

    This weekend is Whitsun, and while the festival may no longer resonate, Larkin's best-loved poem, lives on - along with the train journey at the heart of it
    Kathryn Williams explores the works and influences of Sylvia Plath in a new light

    Songs from the bell jar

    Kathryn Williams explores the works and influences of Sylvia Plath
    How one man's day in high heels showed him that Cannes must change its 'no flats' policy

    One man's day in high heels

    ...showed him that Cannes must change its 'flats' policy
    Is a quiet crusade to reform executive pay bearing fruit?

    Is a quiet crusade to reform executive pay bearing fruit?

    Dominic Rossi of Fidelity says his pressure on business to control rewards is working. But why aren’t other fund managers helping?
    The King David Hotel gives precious work to Palestinians - unless peace talks are on

    King David Hotel: Palestinians not included

    The King David is special to Jerusalem. Nick Kochan checked in and discovered it has some special arrangements, too
    More people moving from Australia to New Zealand than in the other direction for first time in 24 years

    End of the Aussie brain drain

    More people moving from Australia to New Zealand than in the other direction for first time in 24 years
    Meditation is touted as a cure for mental instability but can it actually be bad for you?

    Can meditation be bad for you?

    Researching a mass murder, Dr Miguel Farias discovered that, far from bringing inner peace, meditation can leave devotees in pieces
    Eurovision 2015: Australians will be cheering on their first-ever entrant this Saturday

    Australia's first-ever Eurovision entrant

    Australia, a nation of kitsch-worshippers, has always loved the Eurovision Song Contest. Maggie Alderson says it'll fit in fine
    Letterman's final Late Show: Laughter, but no tears, as David takes his bow after 33 years

    Laughter, but no tears, as Letterman takes his bow after 33 years

    Veteran talkshow host steps down to plaudits from four presidents
    Ivor Novello Awards 2015: Hozier wins with anti-Catholic song 'Take Me To Church' as John Whittingdale leads praise for Black Sabbath

    Hozier's 'blasphemous' song takes Novello award

    Singer joins Ed Sheeran and Clean Bandit in celebration of the best in British and Irish music
    Tequila gold rush: The spirit has gone from a cheap shot to a multi-billion pound product

    Join the tequila gold rush

    The spirit has gone from a cheap shot to a multi-billion pound product
    12 best statement wallpapers

    12 best statement wallpapers

    Make an impact and transform a room with a conversation-starting pattern
    Paul Scholes column: Does David De Gea really want to leave Manchester United to fight it out for the No 1 spot at Real Madrid?

    Paul Scholes column

    Does David De Gea really want to leave Manchester United to fight it out for the No 1 spot at Real Madrid?