Anger at new bike hire scheme

oBikes
Image caption Some councils are angry at oBikes being "dumped" in their boroughs

The phrase you hear a lot now is "transport as a service".

It means instead of people owning cars and bikes, one version of the future is we all hire transport to get around.

This week we got another example of that in the capital when oBike launched.

It is a company backed by considerable venture capital and it's putting hundreds of hire bikes on London's streets.

The company aims to have thousands in the capital by the end of the summer, after already operating huge schemes in South East Asia.

The big difference compared to the existing cycle hire scheme is the bikes have no docking stations. A locking rear brake means they can be left anywhere.

Users access them via an app and you can find them as they have a GPS locator.

'Obstructing pavements'

There is a one-off £49 refundable deposit to be paid and then 50p per half-hour. More companies are set to follow.

oBike says it is aiming to work in conjunction with the existing scheme and it has a social agenda to help clean up London's air and reduce emissions.

Image caption Users access the bike via a phone app and pay £49 a year and 50p per half hour

It also wants to work with Transport for London (TfL) and local councils but unfortunately that hasn't happened.

Some councils are furious they haven't been consulted and bikes have been "dumped" in their areas with no warning.

Hackney Council, while backing cycle hire generally, says it has concerns the oBike can be left anywhere, obstructing pavements and roads.

The east London local authority added it has had no dialogue with the company at all.

In Hammersmith & Fulham, the west London council raised concerns with oBike when about 400 of its yellow bikes appeared in the borough unannounced.

"We're very much in favour of cycling," said Cllr Stephen Cowan, leader of Hammersmith & Fulham Council.

"But we expect companies to properly consult with us first. This launch could have been much better thought out."

He said oBike has agreed to remove the bikes they have deposited in the borough.

As we have seen before in London, we are getting a clash between the authorities and new technology companies.

City Hall has been rather guarded in its welcome.

London's Walking and Cycling Commissioner, Will Norman, said: "We need dock-less bike operators to work with TfL and borough councils to ensure these bikes work for all Londoners and don't impact negatively on other cyclists, road users and pedestrians.

"These schemes have real potential to make cycling more accessible for many more Londoners but it is vital that they are introduced in a way that suits our capital."

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