“Hyper-active” travel in London

URBACT

By URBACT, on October 15th, 2010

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Following developments in Paris, Brussels and other EU cities, London introduced a Cycle Hire scheme on the 30th of July 2010. After 10 weeks of operation the system has already welcomed its millionth passenger and while the scale of the operation cannot yet match the Parisian experience (20,600 bikes available) up until now it has been relatively free of the negative effects of theft and vandalism.

While the Paris introduction has provoked a veritable sea-change in terms of the use of this transport mode, London already had a significant cyclist lobby contributing to daily commuter and recreational journeys, despite often confrontational traffic conditions. So the London scheme seems well on its way to success as an additional impulse, an element building on a more “active travel” modal split, incidentally a fundamental objective of the URBACT II project , Active Travel Network.

The Hire Scheme received a fairly unexpected boost on the 7th of September when London’s transport system was hit by a 24 hour tube (underground) strike. This industrial action resulted in a peak use of the cycle hire system with some 24,000 individual journeys recorded  (+/- 6,000 more than a normal weekday). This forced change of habit may well have importantly contributed to a greater awareness of the potential and efficiency which cycle trips can represent in the urban context. However this day of plenty did bring some teething troubles to the surface in that before 8 o’clock in the morning most docking stations at London’s mainline stations were already empty. Natural return to empty docking stations was clearly insufficient and the redistribution, pick-up and delivery system foreseen by London Transport was unable to cope.
For the 5,000 bikes and 335 docking stations located across London initial estimates previewed redistribution provision based on the mobilisation of 10 electric low emission vehicles and manned by 20 staff. Transport for London have since revealed that 20 vehicles are now in use (no longer all “green”) and the number of staff relocating bikes has doubled to 40.

So success can also produce unforeseen difficulties and provide valuable lessons for other cities embarking on similar initiatives. While London’s problems surely can be described as a temporary blip, it is perhaps worth avoiding the possibility of negative perceptions in cities where a cycling culture has yet to be stamped out of the ground – or where other existing conditions conspire consciously or unconsciously against a change in modal split.

Philip Stein
Thematic Pole Manager

One Response to ““Hyper-active” travel in London”

  1. logistyka says:

    logistyka…

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