If you travel by Docklands Light Railway, you’ve probably seen signs at stations north of the Thames trumpeting the imminent arrival of the London cycle hire scheme – the Boris bikes. They’ll be coming to DLR stations and other locations in east London in advance of the Olympics next July.
Well, I say “east London”, it’s more like “the borough of Tower Hamlets”, since the bike hire locations seem to stop dead at the Bow Flyover, just short of the Olympic Stadium in Stratford. (Perhaps 2012 bosses don’t want two-wheeled adverts for a bank whizzing around their expensively-sponsored turf?) And, of course, they stop dead at the river. Us south-east Londoners can gaze across at the bikes – but that’s all.
From the heat map, it’s easy to see the absurdity of extending north of the river but not south, with the whole Rotherhithe peninsula – which is decent cycling territory, with no hills and some handy back roads – left out in the cold.
Indeed, the hire zone will now stretch out to the north side of the Blackwall Tunnel. Yet the south side, which could benefit from this being in place as developments spring up through Deptford and Greenwich – the hire scheme could be embedded in the new developments around Deptford Creek and the peninsula – gets nothing.
A cynic might suggest that concentrating the bikes around Canary Wharf is a deliberate play to the demographic which is making the most use of them – well-paid, professional men, like the mayor himself.
That’s not going to be strictly true since the new hire zone stretches deep into areas like Bow and Mile End, but even though the river forms a natural boundary, the maps do make the decision to keep the hire scheme north of the Thames look eccentric. Even a simple extension along the A200 and A206, not venturing up the hills, would surely be relatively easy to implement, and make further extensions even easier to put in place. Perhaps the heavy traffic would make maintenance difficult – but that’s no reason to run away from implementing a scheme which the mayor thinks will take cars off the roads. It simply seems that south-east London has been forgotten again.
Not that Transport for London seems to have noticed – I hear a TfL executive invited to speak at a recent Greenwich Council cycling seminar waxed lyrical about the benefits the extension would have for Greenwich. Not if the bikes are on the wrong side of the river, they won’t.
You can find out more about the extended cycle hire scheme over at Suprageography.