The full roll-out of London’s much anticipated bicycle hire scheme has been delayed.
Most Londoners and visitors to the capital will now have to wait until the end of August before being able to use the new bikes. They’ll be available only to pre-registered members when the £140 million ($213 million) scheme is launched on Friday.
The original intention had been to allow casual users to hire a bike simply by inserting a credit card at one of 400 ‘docking stations’ in central London. But there are concerns that there will not be enough bikes on the streets to meet demand after problems installing these stations. Around 100 sites had to be abandoned or were refused after battles with local councils.
The project has been a flagship of the Mayor of London, Boris Johnson – himself a keen cyclist – who sees it as rivalling Paris’s extremely successful ‘Velib’ scheme.
by Andy Moreton
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I suspect that only the ultra-green Scandinavians could have thought up a wheeze such as this …
A luxury hotel in Copenhagen is offering a free meal to any guest who’s willing to produce electricity for the hotel on an exercise bike attached to a generator. At least 10 watt-hours would need to be delivered to qualify – roughly 15 minutes of cycling for someone of average fitness.
The Crowne Plaza in Copenhagen says the idea is to get people fit and reduce their carbon footprint. The luxury hotel already produces renewable energy with solar panels on its facade.
“Many of our visitors are business people who enjoy going to the gym,” said hotel spokeswoman, Frederikke Toemmergaard. “There might be the odd person who will cycle just to get a free meal, but I don’t think people will exploit the initiative overall,” she added.
Copenhagen has a long-standing bicycle tradition, with about 36 per cent of locals cycling to work each day – one of the highest percentages in the world. “Because Copenhagen is strongly associated with cycling, we felt the bicycle would work well as a symbol of the hotel’s green profile,” said Ms Toemmergaard.
by Andy Moreton
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I spent a day in Paris a couple of weeks ago and was impressed to see the cycle-renting service Vélib working very effectively, in spite of problems with theft and vandalism.
Cities all over the world are making big efforts to go green and encourage people to cycle rather than drive. Amsterdam has always been in the vanguard of this, but Copenhagen is making a bid to become the world’s friendliest city for cyclists. It has good reason - the Danish capital is hosting the UN climate change summit at the end of the year.
At present, about a third of people in Copenhagen already cycle to work, school or university – there are 217 miles of cycle routes. “The city has worked consistently to improve things for cyclists,” said Andreas Rohl, who’s in charge of the city’s cycling programme. “For people here, going on a bicycle is a bit like brushing your teeth, you don’t think much about it!”
Two of the city’s main bridges have recently had a makeover to encourage more people to cycle. One is now completely car-free, the other includes double cycle lanes on both sides. Other cycle-friendly measures are being considered.
Barcelona and London are among the other European cities openly committed to improving cycle routes.
by Andy Moreton
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The electric bike could be the future; for many Chinese it’s the present.
The e-bike is assisted by a battery-powered motor that makes pedalling feel almost effortless. With China being a nation of 450 million cyclists, it’s caught on there with astonishing speed; industry analysts believe two-thirds of them could eventually switch to electric power.
One man is determined to show the world the benefits of the e-bike – and he’s not Chinese. Guim Valls Teruel, a 33-year-old from Barcelona, is riding one around the world from Beijing to London, where he hopes to arrive in time for the 2012 Olympics.
Using solar power to recharge his three batteries, Mr Teruel plans to pedal-glide through five continents before arriving in England via Ireland.
“Millions of Chinese people already use them and they can be an important part of a green revolution in the rest of the world,” said Mr Teruel, who’s lived in China for two years. “It’s so easy, it feels like you’re floating.”
The e-bike has been much slower to catch on in Europe and the United States, even though it is has zero emissions, is whisper-quiet and can deliver a commuter to his desk without the need for a shower and a change of clothes.
However, there are now signs that the e-bike is about to make a breakthrough in Europe, starting among the cycle-loving citizens of the Netherlands.
by Andy Moreton
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It’s depressing to have to report that the enterprising Vélib bicycle rental scheme in Paris that I wrote about last year has become a victim of theft and vandalism.
Half of the original fleet of 15,000 distinctive grey bikes have disappeared, presumed stolen; several have been spotted in Romania. In addition, more than 11,000 have been vandalised – tyre-slashing is the most common problem, although some bikes have been found hanging from trees or dumped in rivers.
JCDecaux, the advertising company that supplies them to the city, has been repairing or replacing most of the original cycles. This led to it complaining that the city was making all the money from the rentals while the operating firm was bearing all the costs. The Mayor, Bertrand Delanoë, has now agreed to pay for a proportion of the stolen and damaged stock.
Vélib - a contraction of the French words for bicycle and freedom - remains popular with the city’s residents and tourists – in its first year of operation, it made €20 million (£17.5 million / $26 million).
But as well as theft and vandalism, the cycles have fallen victim to a craze called ‘Vélib extreme.’
Young riders use them for daredevil stunts that they film and post on the internet, set to rock music. They include jumps and fast descents down the long stairs of the Montmartre hill.
by Andy Moreton
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