The Mayoral Cycle Hire Scheme Sponsored By A Major High Street Bank is extending east.
The announcement came back in 2010, that the chunky-framed bikes would be appearing across Tower Hamlets, almost but not quite as far as the Olympic Park. Planning permission had to be applied for, way back last summer. And suddenly now, without fanfare, the first Expansion Area docking stations are up and running. If you don't believe me, check themap.
Installation happens slowly, then very fast. Let me take the Bow Church Cycle Hire docking station as an example. Back in November contractors came along and tweaked the pavement to impregnate it with metal connectors. Then they went away, leaving a flat wide pavement beside the segregated Cycle Superhighway. On Tuesday evening, still nothing. But by daybreak on Wednesday morning, a chunky black terminal had appeared, tall and proud. It's covered with maps of the local area and a list of fees, plus a backlit electronic keypad awaiting input. Almost ready, but yesterday morning the mechanics weren't yet operational... as announced by a temporary sign on the top and a total absence of anywhere to park a bike.
But by Wednesday evening, there were 39 places to park a bike. I was expecting more - the original planning application had requested 77 - but even half that total looks more than adequate already. A pristine row of 39 blue plastic bank adverts, jaws gaping, are waiting to accept their first docked two-wheeler. There are no bikes yet because the system's not quite ready to accept them. But that's not the case round the corner at the end of Bromley High Street. This is the closest docking station to the Olympic Park - entirely non-existent a few days ago, yet already fully operational according to TfL's online map. Indeed, as I write, the eastern half of Tower Hamlets already has four docking stations up and running.
These four stations are so far from the existing Cycle Hire zone that it's no surprise they're currently empty. But as soon as somebody chances their luck and rides out this way (or as soon as the contractor delivers a first truckload), expect the Tower Hamlets Cycle Hire revolution to be underway. Thursday pm update:: Ah, those four docking stations are installed but are not yet operational. Some overzealous soul added them to TfL's map prematurely. They've now been removed.
I can't say I'm itching to join up. I hear tales of broken keys, inappropriate fines and customer dissatisfaction, which doesn't inspire my participation. And then there's the perilous state of Bow's Cycle Superhighways - even those which haven't yet injured anybody - whose half-hearted lane-sharing gives me no confidence whatsoever to take to two wheels. Alas as a pedestrian at Bow Church, all that Barclays' cycle improvements have so far done is to shrink the pavement three times - once for CS2, further to accommodate a docking station, and imminently for laterally-positioned bikes.
I would bring you a photo of the new Bow Church docking station, except it was dark when I spotted it, so you'll have to imagine. Instead here are photos of where it's been placed, between the lamppost on the left and the lamppost on the right.
And a special hello to TfL's cycle-infrastructure contractors, should they be reading. Back in the summer when you added CS2, you attached an incorrect blue circular sign to each lamppost. The sign you fixed saying "Cycle Superhighway 2 on the left, pavement on the right", sorry, reality says otherwise. And the sign you fixed saying "pavement on the left, Cycle Superhighway 2 on the right", sorry, reality says otherwise. While you're in the area adding our docking station, maybe you could swap the two signs over? It'd be good to remove this particularly cretinous mix-up from Bow Road, before anybody else spots it. If you're not too busy. Many thanks.