Not all councils fully embrace cycle hire scheme

Londonís mayor Boris Johnson is encountering opposition from two London councils to his plans for a bike hire scheme in the capital.

[ClickPress, Wed Jul 22 2009] Londonís mayor Boris Johnson is encountering opposition from two London councils to his plans for a bike hire scheme in the capital.

Camden and Westminster councils are objecting to elements of the scheme on the grounds that they would lose hundreds of thousands of pounds if profitable car parking spaces are replaced by bicycle stands.

In its initial phase, the cycle hire scheme, which is modelled on the successful Vťlib programme in Paris, would see the introduction of 6,000 cycles on Londonís streets by May 2010, with Londoners making around 40,000 cycle journeys daily.

The mayor, himself a keen cyclist, has pledged to spend £113 million on cycling this year, and to fund 66,000 new cycle spaces by 2012. He has welcomed the support of Network Rail, which has in recent months increased the number of bike spaces at its stations from 1,200 to just under 1,500. With the introduction of the scheme next May, people will be able to hire bikes directly from London stations.

While Transport for London (TfL) will pay for the installation of the cycle stands, Londonís councils will not be receiving any compensation for lost parking revenue, which, according to Westminster and Camden councils, will amount to £420,000 and £126,500 respectively.

Such losses will hit particularly hard in the current economic climate, with cash-strapped councils already struggling with budget cuts and big increases in benefit payments. Westminster is also sustaining losses of £17 million from its investment in the failed Icelandic banking system, and for it to find an additional £420,000 would result in further cuts in services or jobs. As it is, the council is planning to axe 270 jobs in social care, accountancy and planning in order to save £10 million.

In refusing planning permission for some of the proposed sites, Camden and Westminster also complained that the bike stands would be too close to homes, would block entrances and could damage tree roots. There have also been complaints from residents about the loss of pavement space.

The scheme will have approximately 10,200 docking points (bike stands) spread over some 400 docking stations, which will be situated around 300 metres from each other. The docking stations will initially be located in the area approximately equivalent to fare Zone 1, with the aim of eventually enlarging the area and number of docking stations and cycles.

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