We have an office in central London and operate frequently in/around the city. Our teams often comment about electric-hire-bikes (EHB) causing obstructions on pavements/roads. When walking to the office in Belgrave Square, I often have to walk on the road as these bikes block the pavement. From an obstruction perspective, the original ‘Boris bikes’ that have designated docks are less of an issue. Still, the ones you leave in the street appear to be multiplying daily (Lime, HumanForest, Dott, Tier, Voi), and user etiquette is generally poor. Despite the operator’s attempts to rectify.
I have personally witnessed people leaving EHBs on the ground on pavements without any thought for others; yes, I find it annoying, but of more concern is the risks they present to the visually impaired, wheelchair users, the elderly and people using prams to name but a few. The National Federation of the Blind said that blind people were being put off visiting central London’s attractions and unable to travel confidently due to the “dangerous and awkward” dumping of the EHBs.
I’m confident this isn’t just the view of a disgruntled ex-police officer as the issue has been covered extensively in the national press and is a topic of much debate on social media and various neighbourhood sites. This month it was announced that e-cyclists would be charged 5 times as much for dumping them in central London. If parked in Soho/Covent Garden, riders will be fined ‘up to £10’. In other designated streets, users will continue to be charged until the bike has been moved.
This isn’t the only issue with EHBs. Firefighters issued an urgent e-bike safety warning following a severe blaze at a block of flats in Shepherd’s Bush last year. Post the incident; fire investigators determined the blaze was accidental and caused by the failure of an e-bike’s lithium-ion battery. London’s firefighters have seen a large spike in EHB/scooter incidents as they have become more prevalent in recent years.
Videos on YouTube/TikTok have been uploaded showing criminals how to tamper with rental e-bikes/scooters and use them to commit robberies or utilise them for drug-related activity – we’ve posted previously about their use by criminals. The videos advise on how to disconnect EHBs from the central network to prevent them from being tracked and make them faster, enabling criminals to go anywhere at any time and not be tracked – from my policing experience, it’s difficult to catch a determined criminal if they are on a bike.
EHBs have obvious benefits, they are convenient, relatively cheap and environmentally friendly, and this isn’t purely an ante EHB post. It’s more about highlighting the problems they cause. Ultimately should there be more control over their use, are docking stations the answer, and should the issuing of operator-licenses be more stringent – thoughts on this topic welcome.