E-bike trial set to be rolled out in Hounslow next month

Image above: Lime bikes parked in London

E-bikes to be rolled out in Hounslow in May

Hounslow Council is considering a proposal to introduce a new e-Bike scheme to the borough.

Existing operators will be invited to set up the scheme in Chiswick and Brentford on a trial basis, with the bikes available from May. Currently, e-bikes can be ridden into Hounslow, but there is no formal agreement between operators and the Council. The Council plans to sign a Memorandum of Understanding with the operators, committing to certain conditions about the parking of bikes.

The council will also designate parking areas for customers to deposit the cycles when they have finished their journey. These designated parking areas will include footways and existing car parking bays and Experimental Traffic Orders will be issued to enable their conversion for an initial six-month period.

A Council report recommending the scheme says that in addition to 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 the means to crack down on anti-social parking of bikes.

The schemes have attracted criticism from groups representing elderly and disabled people, as discarded bikes left lying around block pavements. The app used to hire the bikes will have a geo-location function indicating to users where they should park the bike.

Image above: Chiswick House & Gardens; Ljubima Woods

Speed limiters and no-go zones for Thames Path and Chiswick House Grounds

The e-bikes will have speed limiters in certain areas, and some no-go zones, including the Thames Path and Chiswick House Gardens. 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.

Transport for London 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.

The agreements will also detail the fees payable to the borough by the operator for participation in the scheme.

Image above: Green traffic light for cyclists on Cycleway 9

I thought Hounslow already had e-bikes?

You could be forgive for thinking Hounslow already had e-bikes, since there are so many of them around.

E-bike provider Lime currently operates in Hounslow 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 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 residents have complained about 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 those problems.

The Council envisages around 300 bike 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.

Users who do not utilize the assigned bays may face penalties such as fines or suspension, as per the operators’ encouragement. All current operators in other boroughs, including Lime, will be invited to join the programme and have access to the bays.

The Council’s estimated expense for implementing the scheme is £90,000, plus an additional £36,000 annually in lost revenue from converted parking spots. However, it is anticipated that the operators’ fees will exceed the council’s expenses within the first year of operation.

By July, the entire borough is expected to be covered after the initial launch in Chiswick and Brentford.

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