Boris Bikes in the Royal Borough – a Story of Success?
Cycling in Kensington and Chelsea has its problems, but one success story is the roll-out of cycle hire across the borough. From Friday 13 December 2013, virtually the whole borough has had ‘Boris bikes’ available to hire, bringing the joy of cycling to the doorsteps of residents, workers and visitors.
A Short History
K&C is a central London borough, much of which lies in zone 1. It was natural therefore that it would be included in the first phase of the Mayor’s flagship cycle hire scheme. In 2010 docks were rolled out as far west as Holland Park and Notting Hill Gate. Among the most popular docks were those located close to the museums in South Kensington, at Imperial College, and of course those in Kensington Gardens.
Expansion continued quickly; when Exhibition Road’s new layout was unveiled (a complete – and very costly – failure for cyclists and pedestrians), it included two new docking stations. Then in April 2012, when the ‘eastern extension’ of the cycle hire scheme went live, this also included a small western extension as far as the Westfield shopping centre, partly funded by Westfield itself. Four stations were installed on the Westfield estate, and in addition new docks were added on Notting Hill and in the Holland Park area, plus Notting Hill Gate dock was extended.
The 2013 ‘southwestern’ extension was the opportunity to finish the job, by adding new docking stations to the south (in riverside Chelsea) and to the north (North Kensington contains many of the borough’s poorest wards). Docking stations intensified along the arterial Holland Park Avenue with new docks at Holland Park station and on the corner of Princedale Road. Kensington and Chelsea is now ‘central’ to the cycle hire scheme, having H&F to the west, Westminster to the east, and Wandsworth to the south.
Barriers to Success
There are some physical constraints which the borough experiences which constrain he success of the scheme; Notting Hill and Campden Hill are both fairly steep, tending to mean more bikes come down than up. But most of the barriers to cycling in the Royal Borough are due to inherently unsafe road conditions (i.e. structural). I won’t repeat material which is elsewhere on this blog, but safer cycling conditions particularly on arterial routes such as Kensington High Street and Notting Hill Gate are needed to get the borough on their Boris bikes. Queen’s Gate could be a superb north-south route, and has many docks, but is currently marred by high vehicle speeds and cluttered car parking. Kensington Gardens lacks capacity at its two docking stations, and there is no safe route along the north of the park between Queensway and Lancaster Gate gyratory (which needs to be removed anyway).
For the Future?
Kensington Gardens and the Imperial College / Museum Quarter need more docking stations to improve capacity. Bizarrely, groundwork was done right outside the V&A Museum, but docks never installed. But most of the work has been done – now Kensington and Chelsea needs a better and safer network of segregated cycle routes at 20 MPH to promote the use of cycle hire in the borough.
Kindly contributed by our local Boris Biker and author of the ILoveBorisBikes blog.
- Huge extension of Boris bike scheme after Barclays sponsorship ends (standard.co.uk)