Wednesday, 13 February 2008
I see that there's a plan to increase the Congestion Charge in London for Chelsea tractors, from the current £8 per day to £25 per day. It applies to cars in Band G and is supposed to start in October. Announced a few hours after the plans to set up a Velib style bicycle rental scheme for London, along the lines of the one in Paris.
I think the bicycle idea is a good one, although there are always stories of schemes where all the bicycles get stolen, like the previous scheme in Cambridge, where the full set of 300 bikes disappeared on the first day.
Some places like Amsterdam seem to have solved the bike theft problem, mainly by everyone driving around on slighlty old looking bikes all fitted with the same strange back wheel locking device. The Amsterdam weather is similar to London, so that should be a good sign.
In Paris the Velib bikes are a sort of gun-metal colour and very heavy, so whilst quite retro stylish, they are not particulalrly nickable or usable out of their home context. Unfortunately because of the first 30 minutes being free, then chargeable, there's a new style of bike-rage when the bikes are being returned to the sometimes insufficient docking stations. Paris also has a few interesting hills, so bikes can be in short supply at the top of some areas.
It will be interesting to see whether the new Green Low Emission Zone to restrict smelly lorries, the increased fees for gas guzzlers in the centre, the relatively pervasive and good value Oyster card and now the rent-a-bikes will somehow change the nature of travel in the centre of London.
I enjoyed the zone around Leicester Square on Sunday with quite a few of the roads closed to traffic and people able to walk around large but still relatively accessible central areas like a super pedestrian precinct.
So now the "soon for re-election" Mayor of London has to see whether (a) the schemes and changes get accepted and then (b) whether they really make a positive difference.
I hope so.