Battersea looks like it’s near the front of the queue of locations for the expansion of the Cycle Hire scheme out towards the ‘burbs. Everyone seems to be in favour. While it won’t do anything to improve the crap infrastructure for cycling (although it has to be said that Wandsworth is better than Westminster), it will help to normalise cycling as a mainstream transport mode. Once that happens, it will be a lot easier to build a political consensus in favour of building better, safer cycle routes. It won’t look good to spend large sums of cash building docking stations and buying bikes if the investment is under-utilised, due to people being afraid to ride the bikes.
I’m convinced that the accessibility of central London is currently a major barrier to the existing hire bikes being used. I recently had the opportunity to go from Charing Cross to Holborn, a distance ideal for cycling. Using the main roads, The Strand, Aldwych, Kingsway and the Holborn Gyratory are a less than appetising prospect, but are at least guaranteed to get you there. The alternative backroads route is very obscure. You are forced to take a circuitous path by the maze of one-way and no-entry restrictions, plus there is very little signage. Even for a lifelong Londoner, it’s a challenge.
For the large number of people who would like to cycle, but are fearful of traffic, you need to give them the confidence that they can get to a destination without finding themselves amongst large amounts of fast-moving traffic on a main road. This problem is not beyond the wit of man to solve. Unfortunately, while the politicians seem to have decided that Cycle Hire is a Good Thing, they’ve not yet grasped the fact that it would be even better if more people actual rode the bikes.