The Guardian speculates on the likely effects of the bicycle hire scheme that launches tomorrow morning, based on observations of other cities that have mature systems. The scheme is not expected to make any significant difference to private car journeys. This is hardly surprising. Some London drivers of course can not easily switch to the hire bike — deliveries, and the disabled. Most, though, will not. Ever. Most London drivers are the kind of bankers and drug dealers for whom there is simply insufficient mental capacity to even begin to understand how harmful, selfish, and ludicrous their behaviour is. The congestion charge does not affect them; parking charges go unnoticed; no amount of traffic jams will get them out of the shell that protects from the proles. Like religion and conservatism, driving in London is purely irrational; impervious to reason. This we already knew.
What the hire bikes are expected to provide is faster journeys for those who would have walked; relief for overcrowded trains and buses; and most interestingly, a cut in taxi journeys. During the day, bike hire will displace a particular type of taxi journey: the businessman, journalist, politician, academic, civil servant whose journey is short, but has a strict deadline in a busy schedule. The bus wastes time at stops; the tube station too far away; you don’t have time to wait and you can’t take even the remotest risk of getting stuck in a tunnel. So you reluctantly flag a cab. Except that, now, with docking stations outside both your office and the place of your important meeting, and an ominous queue of traffic building at the end of the road, the hire bike looks like the faster and more reliable option.
Meanwhile, at night, when the last tube has left, and the night buses have filled with tramps and creeps, wannabe gangsters and spotty chavs, one might have found tempting a taxi home from your late evening working, your evening classes, cultural performances, or — we know you — pub. Now you can grab a hire bike, and sober up with the wind in your face.
This leads us to the inevitable conclusion that the full introduction of the bike hire scheme must be followed immediately by at least two other changes to London’s transport infrastructure. Firstly, the clear evidence we see is that London’s streets already host an extravagant surplus of taxis, driving around empty, producing enough pollution each for a thousand of us, or else sat idle on the side of the road, day and night, occupying valuable central London land. The bike hire scheme makes our quaint old fashioned taxis even more redundant and, for the sake of the taxi drivers who will be facing ever tougher competition for fares, their numbers will need to be reduced. We propose retraining the drivers to operate the cute little electric trucks that will redistribute bikes from popular destinations back to popular starting locations.
Secondly, there will be a jump in the numbers of people taking a hire bike home from the pub. They are liable to wobble, and, if action is not taken now, could end up scratching an Important Person’s paintwork. Which is why next week we will be explaining why there is sadly no avoiding the fact that the time has come when, for the Motorist’s own protection, we simply have no choice but to remove all private cars from unclassified roads in zone one.