Hire Bikes Come to Hammersmith and Fulham (but mostly Fulham)

originally posted on hfcyclists

After many months of work, and some years of planning the London Cycle Hire scheme is coming to Hammersmith and Fulham, launching on Friday December 13. The council have a very cheery piece of news heralding this which has been well picked up, which we’ll quote from – this is Cllr Victoria Brocklebank-Fowler:

We have worked hard to bring this fantastic scheme to H&F and our residents can now enjoy the benefits of these bikes which are easy to ride and offer low-cost alternatives to other ways of travelling around the borough. We hope more people will be encouraged to get on their bikes and this could help cut congestion on our roads, which has been central to our Get H&F Moving campaign

The ambition she states is good, but we have reservations. As easy as the bikes may be to ride, the roads in Hammersmith and Fulham are much the same as ever. We continue to have two major gyratory systems at the centre of Hammersmith and Shepherd’s Bush, and the narrower and more windy roads of Fulham where the bulk of the bikes will be docked are not a pleasant cycling environment. Even the newer roads around Westfield where hire bikes first appeared in the borough are not a pleasant cycling destination, and need complete overhaul as it celebrates five years and looks to be expanded. Westfield cannot cope with Chistmas peaks using cars and public transport alone, as the follwing reports from TfL’s own traffic team show.

 

 

 

 

Hire bikes came to Westfield in March 2012, however issues with the car parks being full around Christmas have happened repeatedly before and since their arrival. Clearly the addition of hire bikes alone was not enough to deal with congestion at Westfield.

CTC have made their own investigations into the bike hire, and believe that the London scheme is currently the least used and most expensive scheme in Europe.

We are keen to see changes in Hammersmith and Fulham that make cycling on main roads safe, attractive and direct, and link appropriately into local neighbourhoods. The council is right to link the possibility of more people cycling to helping cut congestion, but we don’t believe any reduction will be meaningful until major barriers to cycling are tackled.

The local section of the hire bike stations map
The local section of the hire bike stations map

The perception of cycling locally is an issue, it does not readily appear safe. Despite recent deaths, it is hard to say that the activity of cycling is any more dangerous than it was, though we remain concerned. Figures locally show that driving in particular has got a lot safer during the last decade whereas cycling hasn’t, even taking growth in cycling into account. There remain few safe cycling facilities, and they are not joined up. Good quality facilities are the best advert for cycling. Without a ‘step change’ as called for in the Mayor’s Cycling Vision in Hammersmith and Fulham we will not see cycling become safer and grow as we and council would like it to. 

It’s worth also considering the issue of parking, for the majority of local people cycling who will be continuing to use their own bikes. Whilst the council is responsive in particular cases to requests for extra cycle parking there is no major cycle parking at any development other than some sheffield stands. A radical increase in parking locations, density and quality is necessary – consideration must be given to parking in the carriageway or under cover with direct access to key destinations such as supermarkets and cinemas.

Things could be worse of course, as our neighbouring borough Kensington and Chelsea features even fewer facilities for cycling. Kensington and Chelsea continues to block the proposal for segregated lanes on Kensington High Street. We are concerned that Superhighway 9 may yet not happen due to their obstruction, and Hammersmith and Fulham council are already planning on that basis with recent council papers saying “it is likely that TfL’s cycle superhighway [9] will now not go ahead”. We need to be joined to London, and our neighbouring boroughs need to think not just of their residents, but those work, shop and pass through by bike from boroughs like our own.

An example of segregation that could be used on Kensington High Street - at risk due to the council objecting
An example of segregation that could be used on Kensington High Street – at risk due to the council in Kensington & Chelsea objecting

Despite the council citing £2m of developer funding they’ve helped fund the scheme with, there is London tax payer money being used to fund the hire scheme. TfL itself funds ongoing and one-off costs and whilst Barclays sponsors  it covers only a portion of these. The cycle hire is not some treat, Londoners must bear in mind that a lot of money has been spent on the bike hire scheme. We need to see the oft quoted “near £1bn” (actually £913m over 10 years, not all guaranteed) used to fund meaningful changes to Hammersmith and Fulham and neighbouring boroughs thus enabling many more journeys to be undertaken safely in the area and beyond. The council needs to be bidding aggressively to get funds for schemes to tackle barriers to cycling in Hammersmith and Fulham, much as it did to get Cycle Hire. The effort they are so well practiced in using to get developer funding needs to be expended on cycling. They have a promising if basic start in their recent bid for cycling funds, but still show no ambition to tackle the major barriers.

Of course there are more barriers than those we’ve identified. We’re going to summarise the issues we know locally in a further post, but you can help us out now by identifying local issues in our Space4Cycling survey, or adding your weight to known issues like Hammersmith Broadway. We hope that we can make progress with making cycling safer in Hammersmith and Fulham and beyond from 2014.

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