E-Bike Trial Set to Begin in Chiswick and Brentford in May

Parking bays to be converted provide space for hire cycles

Other boroughs have experienced problems with bikes causing obstruction. Picture: Wandsworth Council

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ChiswickW4.com and BrentfordTW8.com

April 14, 2023

A proposal for an e-Bike scheme to be introduced to the borough of Hounslow is set to be considered at a council meeting this Tuesday (18 April).

It is planned to invite existing operators to set up initially in Chiswick and Brentford on a trial basis with the bikes to be available from next month.

E-bikes currently can be ridden into the borough but there is no formal agreement between operators and the council. The intention is that a Memorandum of Understanding will be signed with the operators in which they commit to certain conditions about the parking of bikes and the council will designate parking areas for their customers to deposit the cycles when they have finished their journey.

Some of the designated parking areas will be on footways but others will be in existing car parking bays and Experimental Traffic Orders will be issued to enable their conversion for an initial six month period.

The report recommending the scheme says that, as well as encouraging an active form of travel, the scheme will allow greater control of the way the operators manage their schemes in the borough including giving the council means of encouraging them to crack down on anti-social parking of the bikes.

The app that customers use to hire the bikes will have a geo-location function indicating to them where they should park the bike. However, the schemes have attracted criticism from groups representing the elderly and the disabled as they have increased hazard for pedestrians. Even with enforcement of designated parking areas, unauthorised use can result in bikes being discarded carelessly.

There will also be speed limiters on the bikes in certain areas and some no-go zones including the Thames Path and Chiswick House Grounds. The bikes will lose power in these areas, but it will still be possible to use the pedals. By government regulation, the maximum speed for an e-bike is 15.5mph.

It is also pointed out that TfL is not currently considering an expansion of the Santander bike scheme to the borough.

This will be the first time that the council has entered into a partnership with a bike hire company since it signed an agreement with Mobike which was terminated in 2020. The partnerships will be for e-bikes only and not e-scooters with the latter still being considered for a similar trial implementation.

The agreements with the operators will detail the minimum number of vehicles expected within the borough at the start of each day, the maximum number of cycles that can be left in each bay and a requirement for the regular redistribution of bicycles as necessary to ensure availability of cycles as well as sufficient space within bays to return the bikes. It will also detail the fees payable to the borough by the operator for participation in the scheme.

Lime currently operates in the borough but without a formal agreement with the council. Other operators in London including Dott, HumanForest and TIER currently do not allow their bikes to be ridden in the borough. .Operators currently achieve this by automatically stopping the electrically assisted power function on the e-bikes at the borough boundary (through geo-fencing). Neighbouring boroughs such as Ealing and Hammersmith & Fulham already operate schemes and bikes that can be hired in those boroughs will be able to be ridden into Hounslow if their operator signs up.

Many boroughs have experienced problems with hire bikes blocking pavements and footways. Hammersmith & Fulham has recently announced a blitz on carelessly discarded bikes and Wandsworth has regularly been impounding Lime bikes when they have been causing an obstruction.

The creation of dedicated areas where the bikes must be parked aims to reduce the level of disruption. The council envisages around 300 such bays across the borough when the scheme is fully implemented generally within 250-300 metres of the nearest bay and never more than 500 metres. Discussions with London Councils, TfL and operators have suggested that if spacing is greater than 500m, this becomes unattractive to users due to the additional journey time it adds, which for relatively short trips is critical.

The operators would be encouraged to fine and, if necessary, suspend users who do not use the designated bays.

After the initial launch in Chiswick and Brentford, full coverage of the borough is envisaged by July.

All the existing operators in other boroughs, including Lime will be invited to participate in the scheme and they will have shared use of the bays.

The cost of setting up the scheme to the council is estimated to be £90,000 plus an additional £36,000 per annum in lost revenue from converted parking spaces. It is anticipated that the fees paid by the operators would exceed the council’s costs within the first year of operation.

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