“Get On Your Bike!” (If It’s Still There): The Two-Wheel Dilemma:

The Mayor of London, Boris Johnson, has designated 2010 as the capital city’s “Year Of Cycling”. This has prompted a debate as to who exactly will be the main beneficiaries. Metropolitan Police statistics quoted in a recent ‘Evening Standard’ article indicate that 18,218 cycles were stolen in London during the 2008/9 financial year. That’s  1,000 more than in the previous twelve months. As the ES columnist also pointed out, “So many are then sold on sites such as eBay or Gumtree that it’s not worth the police’s time to investigate”. According to ‘bikeoff.org’, over 1,200 bikes ‘disappear’ across the UK each day. Both they and Transport for London (TfL) offer similar advice to avoid this happening: For example: “Register the model, make and frame number” – though how useful this will prove once it’s gone and the loss reported is not clear. As the prospects of retrieving it appear fairly remote, insurance cover is essential. A more practical immediate measure to stop it being taken in the first place is to use at least two different locks and make sure they “ catch the bike frame as well as both wheels and the post to which it is attached. Otherwise the thief may steal the bike and leave the wheels behind”. Metropolitan Police Superintendant Matthew Foley says he uses three locks himself, but still sees “ too many, often expensive bikes, with only flimsy locks”, and suggests moreover  that cyclists should remove any easily detachable parts such as wheels, saddles and lights. Other Tfl / Bikeoff recommendations are “Don’t park your bike in the same place every day” and “Always leave it in plain sight”- which tends to be a little unrealistic for those owners who are going shopping or for a meal in a restaurant.

A recent survey conducted by ‘Cycling Club’ magazine has confirmed Bristol as “ the most bike-friendly’ of the UK’s 20 biggest cities. They based their research criteria on “the number of riders, bike shops, traffic-free routes and low pollution levels”. London was rated 17th , with Glasgow, Birmingham and Bradford occupying the last three places. Despite this – and the ‘bike-theft deterrent – cycle journeys in the capital have doubled in the past ten years to around 500,000 per day. For Boris Johnson this is just the beginning: His target is that by 2025, this figure will have increased by an additional 400%. His first two “Cycle Superhighways” – comprising the 7.5-mile route from Barking to Tower Gateway and the 8.5-mile route from Merton to the City – are due to be inaugurated early this summer at a cost of £1.49 million. Included in this amount is £129,000 for cycle maintenance / travel awareness, £210,6000 for cycle training and £274,700 towards cycle parking . The plan is for the remaining 10 chosen Superhighways to be ready for the Olympics in two years’ time.

The Mayor’s  ‘Cycle Rental Scheme’ is also scheduled to be launched in mid-2010. This will (says the ‘Evening Standard’) put a further 6,000 bikes on the streets of central London and there will be 400 locations ( reports ‘BikeBiz) provided  “ for members of the public to hire and return bikes stretching over nine boroughs”. Lessons have been learnt from the  “mistakes made elsewhere in the world, such as Paris”. The bikes, for instance, will not be supplied with locks, so as to dissuade riders from leaving them in “at-risk areas”. Furthermore: ”There are no plans to make cycle helmets compulsory for users of the London Cycle Hire Scheme. Wearing them is not mandatory in the UK and it is therefore a personal choice for the cyclists”. Prospective hirers will have to pay an “access fee” of £1 per day, £5 a week or an annual fee of £45. The charges have been calculated to encourage & reward “short rentals”. Less than 30 minutes will be free, under one hour will cost £1, increasing to £4 (less than 90 minutes), £6  (under two hours), £10 ( less than 150 minutes), £15 ( under two & a half hours), and £35 (less than 6 hours). The maximum fee will be £50 for up to twenty-four hours. According to “BikeRadar”: “Payments will be made by credit card or debit card online, by telephone or at the docking station. Annual membership will bring with it a ‘chip-enabled key’ allowing the subscriber to remove a bike without using the payment terminal”. Once these procedures have been completed (enthuses the ‘Evening Standard’)  “You select your bike, the clamp holding the front wheel retracts, and you’re away”.

Meanwhile, Transport for London (Tfl) research has revealed that “cycling levels in the Outer Boroughs are significantly lower than in the centre of the capital”. In Inner London, 4% of people use their bikes to get to work, but in Outer London just 2%. To redress this imbalance, Tfl has selected twelve of these areas as ‘Biking Boroughs’, thereby making them eligible for extra support and expertise worth £25,000 per council, though as Mike Cavenett, London Cycling Campaign’s (LCC) Communication Officer has emphasised ,this  “Won’t necessarily translate into cycling measures on the ground”. In each case, it will depend on the Borough’s chosen strategy. Fund grants of up to £10,000 are also available for aficionados to promote cycling in their own locality and are “aimed particularly at infrequent or new cyclists – especially groups such as women, children, ethnic groups and disabled people”. In the midst of this flurry of cycling innovations will be the 2010 ‘London Charity Bikeathon’ on Sunday June 27th, held each year to raise money for Leukaemia & Lymphoma Research. They anticipate that 6,500 cyclists “will peddle around the capital” in support of the cause



Filed under: Society | Posted on May 12th, 2010 by Colin D Gordon

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