It is only a few months away from the launch of the London cycle hire scheme, provided there are no delays – there is still no precise date, but only ‘summer 2010′. I am desperate for the scheme to work, but I have severe doubts about it. Will the bikes be used, will they soon all end up in the Regents’ Canal or Hampstead pond, will there be enough pick up points to make it worthwhile, will people find spaces in which to park them, will the management of the scheme be flexible enough to accommodate disproportionate flows and so on.
It has by all accounts worked well in Paris, but there major improvements to the basic cycling infrastructure were made. It used to be perilous to cycle in the French capital, but a few years ago the mayor simply decreed that there would be cycle lanes along the boulevards, and these were installed with typical Gallic efficiency and little consultation. Here, making such changes is a laboured and endless process. Consultation is so often an excuse for inaction.
However, not all is perfect in Paris. A friend of mine, Liam, was there last weekend and tried desperately to hire a bike, but his Visa card was rejected even before he put in his Pin number, and so were his other cards. Is there discrimination against foreigners? Have other readers of this blog had the same experience as Liam or have they managed to use the bikes?