Labour's u-turn on Boris Bikes
Next year sees an important expansion of Boris Bikes in the capital. Docking Stations for them will appear across Wandsworth, and in my borough of Hammersmith and Fulham. There will also be more of them in Lambeth and in Kensington and Chelsea.
My borough has already had an early start with some Boris Bikes available near Westfield in Shepherd's Bush. But next year they will become a familiar site on the streets across Hammersmith and Fulham. From May there will 60-70 docking stations in our borough each with spaces for a minimum of 25 bicycles.
This is fantastic news for cyclists - who will find it easier to get around, save money, and keep fit. But it is also good news for everyone else. It means less pollution and an easing of traffic congestion and crowding on the buses and tubes.
This is a transport scheme that will be available 24/7 for residents and other people within our borough. It is also an affordable way to travel with annual membership costing just 12p a day. That is important when people are considering whether to take a low paid job, given the cost of commuting.
Nearly half (47 per cent) of Barclays Cycle Hire members have reported in customer surveys that they started cycling in London as a result of the scheme’s introduction.
Setting it up in new boroughs will cost money. It is not just a few bikes and bike racks. I have visited the operations centre in Islington and have seen how sophisticated the technology is. However, the bill in Hammersith and Fulham is not being picked up by the Council Taxpayer. Westfield has paid for the initial racks. There will also be £2 million from property developers via the "Section 106" payments. Also, of course, there is the £50 million of sponsorship London-wide from Barclays.
The popularity and benefits of the scheme mean that generally the Labour Party is not so foolish as to try and obstruct it. Lambeth Council is run by Labour but is mustard keen and regard chipping in some of their Section 106 money as thoroughly worthwhile.
Labour-run Merton Council voted last month to negotiate for Boris Bikes to be extended to their borough.
Under the Phase Two expansion to Tower Hamlets the council, a notorious favourite of Ken Livingstone, was pragmatic enough to contribute £2 million to get the infrastructure in place.
Cllr Shahed Ali, a Labour councillor and Lead Member for the Environment, Tower Hamlets Council, said:
“Barclays Cycle Hire has already proved immensely popular in Tower Hamlets, with close to 45,000 trips starting or ending in the borough during January alone. The additional docking stations represent a significant investment in the borough from Tower Hamlets Council. The scheme will make cycling even easier and more accessible to residents and help improve the transport links across the borough.
Yet in my borough the Labour councillors tabled a motion, at our council meeting on Wednesday evening, which calls on "all possible measures to block" the expansion of "the Conservative London Mayor’s pet project.” In a blog the Labour Group leader Cllr Stephen Cowan says the Council's backing for the scheme "stinks." Cllr Cowan added that the council should not have "anything to do with the recently discredited Barclays Bank" whose £50 million London-wide sponsorship has been crucial.
Incidentally, a year ago the Labour councillors had voted in favour of extending the Boris Bikes to our borough.
In their bout of oppositionitis the Labour councillors have shown they are out of touch with residents. Even before this expansion takes place, there are over 4,300 registered users of the Boris Bikes scheme, as of September 23, in Hammersmith and Fulham. That is astonishing given that apart from near Westfield, the scheme doesn't operate in the borough. There are sure to be many more users by this time next year.
Boris Johnson says:
"It is unfortunate that Labour councillors are seeking, for purely political means, to halt the expansion of cycle hire to Hammersmith and Fulham. London now has the world's best Cycle Hire scheme, and residents of H&F deserve to participate in this."
Cllr Lisa Homan, one of the Labour councillors who spoke on Wednesday evening and a London Assembly candidate, complained that "many of those who use the Boris Bikes do so for fun". An astonishing objection, revealing a drab Socialist mindset.
Cllr Homan stood for the South West London constituency in the London Assembly which includes Labour-run Hounslow. Does that council agree with Cllr Homan? I predict that once the Docking Stations appear along King Street next year the call will go up for some along Chiswick High Road across the borough boundary. Will Hounslow Council seek to take part in the interests of their residents? Or will political prejudice prevail with a refusal to be involved in the Mayor's "pet project"?