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|This is a letter I sent to Nigel Pallace [director of the Environment Dept LBHF] and to Cllr Michael Cartwright, the Deputy for Environment shortly before a meeting to consider the OYbike proposal.|
John Griffiths MA(Cantab) MSc(UCLA)
Co-ordinator Hammersmith and
Fulham Cyclists, London Cycling Campaign.
8 July 2002
Some comments on the OYBike Proposal
I believe that the OYbike project is being pushed to a pilot study stage without adequate critical appraisal.
On 21 June 2002 I sent an email to Nigel Pallace raising my concerns. Nigel passed this to Simon Franklin for response. Simon replied by email on 5 July 2002.
Simons reply indicates that everything is fine with the system. In my opinion this is not so. Perhaps in his enthusiasm to see the project through Simon has not looked critically enough at some potential problems. If the pilot study goes ahead and injury results from any reasonably foreseeable problem then I would assume the Council, if not the decision-makers themselves, would liable for negligence.
These foreseeable problems should be addressed before a pilot study goes ahead.
A city-bike system could be good in the Borough, be useful for tourists, could raise the image of the Borough. The Borough should be proud of, and take the credit for being a partner in such a system. It should not want to be in the position of launching an inadequately developed and poorly thought through project, even at a pilot stage.
As I was invited to be on the steering group, and then de-invited by Bernie Hanning, I am taking the liberty, in the interests of cyclists and others in the Borough, to present some of the problems in the proposal as I see them.
In italics I give Simons response to my email to Nigel Pallace. And in normal font my comments.
From: "Franklin Simon"
I refer to your email to Nigel Palace and our recent telephone conversation about the OYBike proposal .Nigel Palace has asked me to respond to the points you raised.
Relations with Bernie Hanning
I am sorry that your relations with Bernie Hanning are not as good as they could be, but I would not wish to be drawn on the reasons for this. Bernie is however himself a London Cycling Campaign member. The points raised by the local group such as the suggestion for unisex bikes have, I note, already been acted upon.
I believe that the breakdown of relations with Bernie has come about because I have made observations, suggestions or criticisms of his system. He was originally very upset about the suggestion that unisex bikes should be used. This was because his system relied on revenue from advertising carried on the bike under the crossbar. I am glad that the unisex bike has now been adopted.
The suggestion that the shared use of stands may cause difficulties for other cyclists has not been at all well received. If this criticism is valid it means that his project has to be rethought, perhaps requiring the installation of separate OYbike stands. I believe that it is why Bernie demanded that I should not be on the steering group after I was invited to be on it. I feel it was wrong of the steering group to accede to his demand.
Risk of injury to other cyclists
The issue of Oybikes and ordinary bikes sharing the same stands has been taken very seriously. This arrangement was demonstrated succesfully at the recent Cyclists Breakfast which I was pleased you were able to attend. There is no reason why ordinary bikes should be trapped, or the OYbikes not easily manoevred. Bernie Hanning has said that he will be happy to arrange any further demonstrations on existing cycle stands.
At the Cyclists' Breakfast Bernie was promoting his system. I chose not to intrude. He showed an OYbike on a long tether attached to a Sheffield stand. However I was under the impression that he was going to take this opportunity to demonstrate to the steering group that a bike could easily be unlocked and removed from a stand when 3 OYbikes where docked on top of it. He did not do this.
It is good that Bernie says he is happy to arrange any further demonstrations. However what is required is that the steering group takes command of the situation and conducts proper tests.
Someone needs to show that stands can be shared without danger or great inconvenience to other cyclists. Tests need to be carried out under a variety of conditions, including for example using cycles with baskets or with child carriers on the stand.
First one has to understand that it is often quite difficult to unlock a bike. A D-lock that passes through the front wheel, the frame of the bike and the Sheffield stand is in a highly constrained position and the keyhole often awkward to get to and at an awkward angle. Normally it is in a position that requires bending and stretching.
To attempt to unlock a bike with three bikes tethered on top of that bike may really give problems. Another source of worry is that when bikes are placed on top of each other the pedals of one bike often become entangled with spokes of another, and it is difficult to untangle just one bike from the top of a pile.
Once it is unlocked the cyclist still has to extract his or her bike. It should be born in mind that the user might be a child, be frail or have back problems.
Tests to show that cyclists would not be exposed to the possibility of injury should be done in front of an appraising audience including, perhaps, a medical expert or the Council's insurers. Only after this is successful should a pilot based on the present proposal be allowed to go ahead.
Possibility of an OYbike falling over and being a danger to pedestrians,
It is recognised that not all stands would be suitable and that is why only a selected 150 stands out of about 1000 would be chosen. There is no possibility of the OYbike tether being long enough to allow the bike to fall over. The locking system has been adapted from a grocery delivery system
It is not a problem that the system has been developed from a grocery delivery system. In that case a tether is used to attach a box placed on private land to a lock on the wall of the house. The problem is that there has been no development in converting this system to a safe way of storing bikes in a public place.
In order to be able to lock 3 OYbikes on a stand that already contains a bike with a basket, the tether needs to be at least 1 metre long, if not 1.5 metres. Remember that there has to be enough play to make the bikes easily manoeuvrable so that the bottom bike can be removed.
The tether allows a large degree of freedom. When a single OYbike is at a stand it may end up lying on the ground or at any angle. When another bike is removed from under an OYbike the OYbike may be left in disarray. There is also the possibility that an OYbike will the lifted over the stand to get it out of the way.
I would have thought that this would not be acceptable, unless proper tests show that it is not a problem to pedestrians.
What is the benefit to LBHF
.. but it is also a potentially exciting system to stimulate cycling in the Borough and to reduce the need for motorised transport.
A recent well-researched report
on city-bike projects
Although many CBPs [city bike projects] are started to reduce traffic congestion, we feel this benefit is questionable. .
Visitors are probably the prime users of the city-bikes .
This analysis leads us to believe, while it may happen, city-bikes are rarely used instead of personal cars. Programs such as the Danish Cyclist Federations Cycle to Work campaign have a greater influence on decreasing car usage within the city
[I give this section in full at the end, with reference and link.]
According to this analysis, if it is also applicable to LBHF, a city-bike project is not so useful for traffic reduction, as most users would otherwise walk or use the bus. It is useful mainly to enhance the profile of the district and to promote the Borough, so that more visitors may stay here.
The present OYbike proposal has a restricted membership and does not closely match the needs of visitors.
4.1.4 Statement of Quality of a City-Bike Program to the City
· High number of trips each day per bike
· Low cost per bike
· Physically attractive system
· Good public image
· No competition with private businesses
The CBP influences the city and taxpayers on two accounts. First, it is a form of transportation, measured mainly in the amount of travel per dollar spent on the system.
Secondly, it is used in promotional literature and presentations, thus attracting tourism.
The publicity and knowledge of a system will influence the quality of the city. While these benefits are hard to quantify, they are important to consider when determining the true value of a CBP.
Although many CBPs are started to reduce traffic congestion, we feel this benefit
is questionable. These are three general types of people in the downtown area of a city: residents, commuting workers, and visitors.
A resident of a cycling friendly city like Copenhagen, who wants to cycle, will typically own their own bike. With the choice between a personal bike and a city-bike, the resident will chose his personal bike for convenience, assured availability, and comfort. For this reason, most residents would not use city-bikes regularly.
Many individuals drive to the city on a daily basis. This trip is usually from a location outside the city-bike limits and could not be alleviated with city-bikes. Commuters coming by train might use a city-bike to go to work from the station, but this would be in place of a bus ride or a walk, not an automobile. This use of city-bikes would not lower traffic congestion inside a city.
Visitors are probably the prime users of the city-bikes. These people usually do not bring their own bike nor do they have a car or any other form of transportation. Visitors would benefit greatly from city-bikes, but these users are not using city-bikes in a way that would lower traffic congestion as they would have otherwise walked or purchased a bus pass.
This analysis leads us to believe, while it may happen, city-bikes are rarely used instead of personal cars. Programs such as the Danish Cyclist Federations Cycle to Work campaign have a greater influence on decreasing car usage within the city. Campaigns like these are successful because they target specific users and can achieve results through a simple rewards system.
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