01 August 2010

London's Bike Share Programme

I've been in Melbourne to give a keynote at the brilliant State of Design Festival and then Abu Dhabi for some holiday and I regret the dry season on Copenhagenize.com. I arrived home a few hours ago and thought it appropriate to chuck a link up to a Guardian film and article about London's new bike share progamme, launched a couple of days ago. The Great Bike Hope for urban cycling in big cities, after the massive success of the Vélib in Paris.

The Guardian's Helen Pidd test drives the system in the film. Great insight into the bike share programme in the British capital. There's a bit of the typical whining about weight that is inherant in regions with too much focus on hobby cycling, but otherwise it's a great little film.

In other news, there is more Revenge of Car Industy with yet another car company continuing the regrettable tradition of promoting bicycle helmets. First there was the Volvo flop in the Netherlands and now FIAT is having a go. Yet another sign that the car industry feels threatened by bicycles and does all it can to brand cycling as more dangerous than it is.

While we're at it, here's an interesting article from The Herald about Melbourne's bike share programme flop. More on that, from my own POV, later.


Jim said...

"There's a bit of the typical whining about weight that is inherant in regions with too much focus on hobby cycling"

No need to be so patronising. Helen Pidd is very familiar with everyday non-hobby cycling, having recently published a book on the subject. The London bikes actually are pretty heavy, as our 'real cycling' bloggers have also noted.

Mikael said...

how I enjoy a bit of resistance. thanks for that.

Richard said...

Actually, it seems more like greenwashing using the green image of bikes to sell their cars. They are "promoting" their 500 bike which fits in their car.

kfg said...


". . . driving a 500 TwinAir means living an "Eco Fashion" Icon."

Ya think?

". . . first two cylinder car."

Oh, pleeeeease. I am so sick of people reintroducing ancient things as "new" and even "first ever." Watch for the NEXT thermoplastic bike frame to be called "first" as well. Just see if they don't.

christhebull said...

@Jim, Mikael - What is perhaps more telling than the complaints about the weight, is that the gearing on the bikes is apparently too low - but that is coming from fixed gear riders and bloggers, who are perhaps used to riding fast and are capable of doing so, rather than tourists pottering around.

@kfg You're right about it not being the first twin-pot car. There were others before like the - er - original Fiat 500...

Frits B said...

kfg - Fiat doesn't boast "the first two cylinder car" but "the first two cylinder car bringing tangible benefits for the environment and the owner" which is quite a difference. It does imply, however, that the original Cinquecento was a polluting stinkpot. Poor old Mr. Giacosa, being vilified after all those years.

Gerry Gaffney said...

The Melbourne scheme seems almost doomed by the requirement for helmets, or by the failure of the scheme to provide helmets, depending on your point of view. I liked the bikes themselves and did a brief review at http://bit.ly/bikehire

bentguy said...

It's interesting that the amount she had to pay kept going up as she continued to pass docking stations. Was she unaware that if she stopped at a station and got a new bike before the half hour was up then a new free half hour starts and you could continue that way all day. And the fellow who felt there was something wrong with his bike could have simply docked it, pressed the button to notify the mechanics of a problem and taken a new one. I suppose he may have just been whining about the heavy bike.

kfg said...

Frits - You're right, without a comma between "car" and "bringing" they no doubt intended the sentence to parse other than my own reading.

A bit of oversensitivity leading to confirmation bias on my part; although I could perhaps make an analogous argument.

" . . .the original Cinquecento was a polluting stinkpot."

Well yeah, comparatively it was. Doesn't mean I still don't want one and I could always just tie an Abici Grantourismo Donna to the roof on those rare occasions it wasn't towing the car.

Frits B said...

kfg - I have driven an old 500 (not the earlier one with front engine; that was a four cylinder I think) and remember that it always felt very unsafe. Tight, no power, no brakes, no roadholding. My sister had a 600 and kept it for 10 years. Then when she got in one morning, the seat just fell through onto the street. Fiat has come a long way since then.

Stinkpot? The old 500 was pure as an angel compared to a two-stroke Trabant.

Alisdair said...

To Mikael,

"Yet another sign that the car industry feels threatened by bicycles and does all it can to brand cycling as more dangerous than it is."

I'm not sure of your argument there. So, by the same rationale why would car manufacturers promote air bags and crushing systems? Wouldn't it seem more dangerous to need all of those things and safer to only need a helmet on a bike? I think you're reading into things there. Perhaps they just want to make some money?

To Gerry,
you're half right. The mandatory law of bike helmets in Australia would make it hard for bike share to succeed, if only the wearing of helmets were policed consistently. The protest in Melbourne would have been the biggest day of helmet related fines outside of the Great Vic Bike Ride. It's not really policed very much normally. It will succeed irrespective of the laws but only because people pay no attention. Reminds me of Italian traffic lights.

lagatta à montréal said...

I haven't been on a bixi yet. People seem to get about on them fine here in Montréal (and we do have some hills, including our so-called mountain).

Anonymous said...

I do think it's clear that Ms. Pidd didn't understand all the rules of the bikes - as others have said, she didn't have to spend as much.

Also, an iPhone app or such will soon obviate the obnoxious paper map.

Finally, as this catches on, I wouldn't be surprised to see chain stores pony up to install bike docking stations at their storefronts. Sure they'd be greenwashing, but so what? They're still providing stations!

kfg said...

Frits - I grew up in two stroke SAABs, so I know all about that. I've also owned a few older FIATs, so I know all about the seats falling through to the street as well.

Hey, ya know how to double the value of a Trabant? Fill the tank.

Guy walks into an auto parts store and asks the guy behind the counter, "Can you give me a rear view mirror for a Trabant?"
Counter guy thinks for a minute and says, "Yeah, sure. Why not? Sounds like a fair trade to me."

Alisdar - I grew up in two stroke SAABs. They were the first company to pad dashboards, install collapsible steering columns and provide seatbelts as standard equipment. Everybody else said "Safety doesn't sell, " pointed at the low sales of SAABs to prove it, and about their old way of doing things.

Then they were FORCED by law to install these things, as well as 5 mph bumpers, controlled crumple zones and air bags. So yeah, they "promote" them. In fact, they have now done such a good job of promoting them, faced with no other option, that they have actually convinced a good many people that cars are safe and that bicycles are death machines. That the bull is a pussycat and that the pussycat is a rabid tiger.

There's nothing so absurd that if you repeat it often enough, people will believe it. And of course 10,000 dead motorists are just a statistic, but one dead cyclist (chest crushed in by a car) is a tragedy that MUST be averted by making every cyclist wear an insulated salad bowl on his head whether he likes it or not; because "it's worth it."

Then there is the report of the driver, who being "told" by the cyclist she'd just almost crushed to, "Watch where you're going!" replied:

"If you were wearing a helmet I wouldn't HAVE to watch where I was going."

Do we see a problem with this interchange that FIAT* just might be doing its little bit to promote?

*I might be rather more fond of my FIATs than they objectively warrant, but I ain't too fond of my Agnellis.

Alisdair said...


Nice reply, I see your point. I just think the argument goes for and against you when you say "our product is safer because it has this and that..." The question, "why do you need this and that?" comes to mind.

Yes, reporting has everything to do with how things are perceived. That is the media.

Anonymous said...

Happy Hiroshima Day from Barclay's Bike Share, operated by the manager of the UK's nuclear arsenal.

Based on technology from Bixi, which got its start with funding from a daughter company of a uranium-mining multi-national.

With minority funding from Barclay's Bank, one of the biggest financiers of weapons (money could have come from a new congestion charge, but Boris cancelled that).