London cyclists will soon have to park or pay as part of new council plans to curb bicycles blocking pavements.
Electric bikes are everywhere. Ride-sharing companies like TIER and Lime have led to a post-pandemic cycling boom as commuters turn to greener forms of urban transport.
But not everyone is happy. Scenes of battery-powered bicycles being thrown in the middle of sidewalks or parking spaces have infuriated pedestrians and motorists, and worried disability activists.
Now Westminster Council is drawing up plans to fine motorists who fail to properly park rented two-wheelers.
They may also incur additional charges, as if they never stopped traveling or were completely banned from their accounts, the Evening Standard reports.
Many e-bike rental operators allow people to rent dockless bikes dotted around cities for a fee, and riders can leave them where their journey ends.
But city councilors say abandoned bikes could pose an “imminent threat to public safety”.
The local authority hopes to install 250 cycle bays in the coming months, creating what officials have called “a network of dockless electric bike parking spaces across Westminster”.
Existing bays for e-scooters will be expanded to also have space for bicycles. Some curbside parking spaces will also be replaced with cycle bays.
Some major thoroughfares in districts such as Soho and Covent Garden will be turned into e-bike free zones as part of a Memorandum of Understanding between the council and Tier, Lime, Dott and Human Forest which will come into effect in July.
Electric bike companies, however, say councilors will need to make around 500 bays to achieve all this – and the companies are expected to partly cover the bill.
Paul Dimoldenberg, Westminster’s top city governing officer, told the Standard: “The idea is that the whole of Westminster will be geo-fenced, so cyclists will only be able to park their bikes in a designated bay.
“Otherwise they will continue to be billed as if they were continuing their journey.”
“We don’t want any more mess on the sidewalks,” he added.
Councilors said cities need to strike a balance between encouraging people to choose bicycles over short car journeys and ending “free for all”.
In August, council workers began repossessing abandoned dockless bikes in cities after a spike in the summer.
The council said at the time that any e-bikes that “were causing dangerous obstacles on sidewalks and roads” had been seized.
He adds that rented bicycles left on the sidewalks may pose a threat to wheelchair users who will be forced to walk around the bicycles and even onto the road.
Some micromobility companies have employees patrolling areas to make sure bikes are properly parked and not abandoned on roadways.
Dockless Obstructions, a campaign group that says London has become an “obstacle course” for e-bikes, believes Westminster has not gone “far enough”.
E-bike schemes should allow users to dock their bikes at stations similar to Santander Cycles, a public bike sharing scheme, the group’s CEO Andrew Hodgson told Metro.co.uk.
“We welcome Westminster’s concerns about this, but this solution does not go far enough and we need the bikes to be docked and locked to the pavement,” he said.
“Our sidewalks need to be cleared of these dockless bikes so that blind and visually impaired people can safely navigate the city.
“This problem has dragged on for too long and we need a solution to solve this problem once and for all.”
Lime, a California-based company owned by Uber, said it “welcomes” Westminster’s plans.
“Tens of thousands of Londoners rely on shared e-bike services like Lime for their daily commute,” Hal Stevenson, Lime’s senior public affairs officer, told Metro.co.uk.
“For them to continue doing this, it’s important that they have plenty of clearly defined parking spaces so they can end up where they want to go.”
Dott, a Dutch-French company known for its colorful e-bikes, told Metro.co.uk it supports Westminster’s plans for more designated bays.
“Cyclists will be able to find and park their e-bikes more easily, and all city dwellers will benefit from a better experience on the streets,” the spokesperson said.
“This is the approach we recommend and is already using in other cities across Europe.”
Dott added that he was working with Westminster officials to find suitable sites for the new parking bays.
This, added Dott, “will ensure that shared e-bikes can provide a useful and sustainable journey, well integrated into the city.”
TIER, Lime and Human Forest were approached for comment.
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