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London learns lessons from theft-hit Vélib bike-hire scheme

Different locks will make London bikes more difficult to steal

Transport for London today insists plans for London’s bike-hire scheme are on target despite rumours of a delay caused by problems with the Parisian Vélib system.

Earlier this month reported the French bicycle hire scheme, launched 18 months ago, was in danger of falling victim to the darker side of human nature thanks to vandalism, theft, and a new craze known as Vélib Extreme (see below).

According to Velib operators JCDecaux half the original fleet of 15,000 Velib (an echo of the French for bike and freedom) “disappeared” during the 18 months since they first appeared on Parisian boulevards. Some ended up in the Seine and others have been spotted as far afield as Eastern Europe and North Africa.

But online rumours that London is delaying implementation of its own scheme as a result, were today said to be “rubbish” by Transport for London. Silka Kennedy-Todd, a Transport for London press officer, told plans are on track for a May 2010 launch.

“We’re at the invitation to tender stage at the moment and will be making an announcement in early summer about who’s going to be running it for us," said Kennedy-Todd. 

“We’re lucky because we’re a second generation scheme and we can learn a lot from the vandalism and theft problems in Paris.”

Kennedy-Todd said the problems in Paris were partly to do with the locks which didn’t make it completely clear when bikes were secured in their docking stations, allowing people to take them out again without registering or paying.

She said: “Because we’re aware of that we’re very clear we want a very simple and straight-forward locking system. We’re not saying the London scheme’s not going to have any bikes stolen, of course that’s going to happen, but we’re lucky we can learn from Paris.”

The feasibility study for a central London cycle hire scheme looked at all the other schemes in Europe, including Cyclocity, Brussels, Call a Bike, Berlin, and existing London scheme OYBike, implemented in Hammersmith and Fulham in 2004, which has experienced very few thefts from its 130-strong fleet.

Ms Kennedy-Todd wouldn’t divulge how many potential providers had registered an interest in the London scheme but said: “Who wouldn’t want to run the cycling scheme? Everyone’s very excited about it."

Find out more about cyclist and London Mayor Boris Johnson's plans for the London bike hire scheme here

See Vélib Extreme - a riding style possibly not condoned by the hire scheme owners...

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