Oona gets on her bike – and some extra Boris bike thoughts

It’s a bit of a quiet week – apart from the sound of rain and the hammering of the roadworks outside. But thanks to Adam for alerting me to this on Twitter which made me smile – mayoral hopeful Oona King’s cycling policy, as mentioned on the Evening Standard’s Ross Lydall’s excellent blog.

There’s some sensible stuff there – creating a London bike register is a neat idea, and I’m actually surprised that cycle helmet discounts for users of Boris bikes haven’t emerged already. Opening more cycle lanes in parks is a good idea, but needs some mayoral muscle – I noticed from an earlier Standard story that Royal Parks refused permission for a docking station at The Mall, so the nearest one is currently a huge flight of steps at Waterloo Place. Hopefully by 2012 the mayoralty will be running Royal Parks and will be in a position to make this happen. In the meantime, I’m finding an hour or so pedalling one of those beasts around Hyde Park is a cheap alternative to a gym.

I imagine that the current teething problems with the Boris bikes will also need to be ironed out before any more thoughts of expansion take place – I remarked when the scheme launched that it was a bit of a journey into the unknown, and so it has proved, with their popularity with rail commuters coming as a surprise.

But here’s an odd one – taking bikes on buses? You can already take folding bikes on buses, but here’s the only London bus which has ever taken full-size bikes…

Dartford Tunnel Cycle Service bus
(Dartford Tunnel Cycle Service bus – copyright Flickr user Tom Burnham, all rights reserved.)

Ian’s Bus Stop takes us back to 1963: “They came about because of the Dartford Tunnel, opening up to connect Kent and Essex. It was expected to bring a new flood of labour benefits, with workers streaming either way through the link to new opportunities. Someone must have said “What about cyclists? They aren’t allowed through the tunnel. What will we do about them?” Anyway, a fleet of five enormous double-deck buses was designed, each capable of carrying a significant number of bikes (23) in racks on an open lower deck, with tandems and tricycles in a capacious open boot and passengers (33) upstairs.

“[They] went into service in November 1963, and ran between the Dartford and Purfleet shores largely empty. After two years the whistle was blown in October 1965. The level of actual requirement was indicated by the replacement: a Land-Rover with trailer, on call for use when summoned.”

The site adds that one of these beasts was discovered in a scrapyard by bus executive Leon Daniels and has been saved for restoration – so if Oona’s looking for a prototype… but seriously, it strikes me that bus travel and cycle travel are probably mutally exclusive, and many ordinary passengers find buggies annoying enough without having to compete with bikes as well.

A couple of other thoughts about the cycle hire scheme have struck me over the past week, though. Instead of the expense and hassle of linking the Boris bike keys with Oyster – which also suffers from a chaotic behind-the-scenes system – why not simply give annual travelcard holders free cycle hire membership? It’d be simple, and quick to implement, and would prove evidence of joined-up thinking even if the payment systems can’t be joined up immediately.

Another thing struck me on my way to a night out in Wapping. The brand new Cycle Superhighway 3 passes the brand new (ish) Shadwell railway station on the London Overground – so surely it should have a brand new Boris bike stand to go with it? Sadly, no – the nearest Boris bikes are about half a mile west of Wapping station.

Surely a small, simple extension of the hire scheme out to the new railway line – and particularly where it meets the new cycle superhighway – would be simple and much-used? Again, it’d also prove some joined-up thinking at TfL…

As far as whether the scheme will penetrate any further into south-east London than Bermondsey, the latest plans for extending the scheme include a plan to extend eastwards towards Canary Wharf and the Olympic Park. With Greenwich an Olympic borough, it’s unclear whether this includes areas south of the river. Being able to hire a bike for a run up to North Greenwich Tube might be a little way off yet.


  1. re Oyster and bikes; why not at least allow registered users to use their cards?

    And again I call for some of the huge network of side-streets in West End to be set aside for cycles only.

  2. That’s really interesting, Marty. But are we patient enough in London to wait for people to load/unload bikes onto a special rack?

  3. I’d guess that the absence of cycle hire bays at Shadwell is something to do with whether it’s zone 1 or 2. Rail services would stand to lose out if there were too many places where you can detrain in zone 2 and easily cycle away into zone 1. I believe, however, that you can do something like that one stop north at Whitechapel.

  4. True – forgot about the Whitechapel docking stations.

    You can also get off an Overground train at Kensington Olympia – zone 2 – and pedal off on a Boris bike.

  5. There was a “Bike Bus” service running in Devon about 10 years ago for a year or two. It was an ordinary single decker Leyland National bus with the back (raised) area stripped out and replaced with bike racks and the front ordinary seating. There is a picture of one here : http://buses.awardspace.com/Devon.htm

  6. There was some investigation of front-mounted bike racks here, but it was concluded that the benefits were outweighed by the greater damage inflicted in accidents.

Comments are closed.