If you have ever been to London after July 2010, you may have noticed a couple of conspicuous blue bicycles moving around the city. You may have also noticed a massive Barclay’s sign slapped on the back wheel, which is to be expected seeing as Barclay’s is the main sponsor of venture. However, we Londoners affectionately call these ‘Boris Bikes’, after the mayor who implemented this scheme and is now set to continue expanding it!
The Boris bike scheme will see its third extension since its initial launch, where it will now extend to west and southern areas of the city covering Wandsworth, Hammersmith and Fulham, North Kensington, North Lambeth and around Vauxhall (please see map for people who have no idea of where these places are).
This extension will add around 2,000 more bikes to the existing fleet, and 265 docking stations and is to be completed by spring of 2014. The network will now allow people to cycle from anywhere between Bow and Hammersmith – equivalent to driving from an approximate area of 95km2 (in Malta terms, it is the distance of driving from Mellieħa to Paceville).
While I will not stay going into costs and expenditure related issues → you may find this here ←, I have to give it to Boris Johnson for believing in this scheme. The popularity of using bicycles in urban cities is on the rise, as it is cheaper than most transport systems, it provides a good means of exercise, and it keeps the environment clean. It is quite refreshing to actually listen to people argue how they rather not use public transport or private cars in order to save on costs and reduce their carbon footprint. This kind of puts a lot things into perspective, such as the normality of driving 5 minutes down the road in Malta to run an errand.
While accidents to happen, and in some cases they are unfortunately fatal, I do hope that this trend continues to expand to other major European cities. Such bicycle sharing schemes are already available in Paris (Vélib), Barcelona (Bicing), Berlin (Nextbike) and Rome (Roma’n’Bike) and in many countries outside the EU such as China, the States and Australia.
While I will not go far as to say that it would successfully be implemented in Malta (given the high car density we have –recently reported to be 315,875 registered vehicles), it is worth considering. The scheme is best placed to work in cities, so it would be quite functional between Valletta and Sliema. At any rate, we may need to look at bicycles as a real alternative in the future, with rising fuel prices and all that jazz!