Boris bikes and Greenwich – so near, but yet so far

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.

Map man Oliver O’Brien has put together a “heat map” of the scheme’s new boundaries and has plotted the rough locations for bike stands on Google Maps.

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.


  1. I suspect Lloyds TSB wouldn’t be massive amused by the bikes appearing in Olympic areas before 2012.

  2. Tower Hamlets may be extremely close to south London geographically, but not if you’re a cyclist. The only Thames crossing points are Tower Bridge and the Rotherhithe Tunnel, and you’ll never persuade fairweather cyclists through the latter.

    When there’s enough cash to extend the BorisBikeZone into another extra borough, maybe Southwark will be next. Until then the river provides a nigh impenetrable bike-barrier, and it would be delusional to assume otherwise.

  3. I’m not expecting the capabaility to ride on water – but surely being able to ride up to Tower Bridge, even from Surrey Quays or Canada Water stations, if not the Cutty Sark, would be a meaningful extension.

    I think Adam’s hit the nail on the head with the sponsors’ HQ…

  4. The Boris/Barclays Bike Scheme, despite being fab alliteration, would inevitably have a serious effect on our small business, which has been trading in East Greenwich for 25 years, and expanded to include cycle rental with ‘Greenwich Cycle Hire’ 3 years ago.
    I’m happy to compete with businesses that have to stand on their own feet, but if you were to surround us with tax payer sponsored subsidised ‘mopeds without engines’ the subsequent loss of market share would cause us to withdraw gracefully. This would be a shame and a loss to Greenwich, especially since we cater for those who wish to hire cheaply for longer periods than 2 or 3 minutes, and also for those who wish to tackle the (in case you hadn’t noticed them)rather steep inclines up to the heath/park using something with a few more gears than ‘1 plus walking pace’. Please consider whenever we allow a huge commercial venture in, that someone smaller is going to be shoved out, and even if they offer a product which is slightly different (ie bikes instead of bank adverts)even the loss of 10-20% of business would make survival difficult nay impossible.

  5. Derek – I did raise that issue but this is a TfL scheme and a bit more distant from local businesses

  6. Mary- someone’s up and working early on a Sunday-I’m impressed! i understand your point fully and agree it’s too big for a local business to have any influence over, and i suppose in that sense not dissimilar to the Greenwich market issue- Greenwich hospital trustees being a bit more distant from local people in general?
    An interesting call came through to me at the shop on Saturday actually- a man saying could we come a collect one of our bikes as the rider had been in an accident, and the bike needed to be returned (not sure if he was concerned about the ongoing rental fee if the rider was being kept in Queen Elizabeth A&E for the next few weeks awaiting a doctor??) (sorry-no politics intended, just a Chislehurst resident making a point about Queen Marys A&E closing)
    So when i told the gent we had no bikes out that week, being mid-winter, he said ‘well its one of yours, it’s got Barclays on the side’ When i suggested calling the Barclays hire scheme he said ‘where do i find them then? So i suppose once it’s extended to Greenwich, we’ll be the unpaid call centre?

  7. Ah, yet again the poorer south and south eastern london bouroghs are left out just like the underground

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