Friday, October 1, 2010

Merton Cycle Hire

Reported in the local Guardian. It's not exactly on the BorisBike scale, and rather a different proposition.

50 bikes were loaned out for free during a roadshow at the Tandem Centre in Christchurch Road on Saturday.

The Tandem Centre is about the worst example of car-centric planning you'll find in Merton. It has a large car park, which always full at weekends. People spend a lot of time driving round the car park looking for a free space and after a couple of circuits, they park in the disabled area. It has a couple of bike parking areas with Sheffield stands, which are usually deserted.

The idea, I suppose, is to nudge people into trying cycling. They try it for 5 weeks on the loaner bike, like it, go out and buy a bike and cycle everywhere happily for the rest of their lives.

I daresay you've spotted the flaw. While there's bits of decent infrastructure in the area around the Tandem Centre, like the Wandle Trail and the segregated lane along Merantun Way, Mitcham, which is served by the Tandem Centre, is pretty much an infrastructure desert. Without decent infrastructure, there's a fundamental problem, illustrated by my friend who came to the UK from Spain, bought himself a road bike and cycled in to work every day. After 6 months, I asked him if he was still doing it. "No," he said,(in a Spanish accent). "I quit. Too dangerous. No-one gives you any room".

Research has shown that the main thing stopping people cycling is fear of traffic. 'Soft' measures like this can have some effect but the results can be ephemeral and once you've burned through the money nothing tangible remains. If you invest in infrastructure, there is a permanent legacy - a permanent advert for cycling and a permanent contribution to road safety and the nation's health. Which raises the question of how much this cost. 50 bikes at £300 each is £15,000. There's probably another £15,000 in wages, employment costs, office space, vehicles, publicity materials, and so on. If you took this, and the all the other money Merton has wasted on useless schemes like Green Lane, you could build some high-quality infrastructure. It's a shame that the CSH#7, which runs 100 metres from the Tandem Centre, is not an example of high-quality infrastructure.

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