City Corporation takes big step towards granting e-bike trial

Freebikes could soon be seen whirring around the City of London

City workers and tourists who prefer to navigate central London on two wheels could soon get access to dockless e-bikes in its financial heart.

The City of London Corporation’s planning and transport committee  heard a trial would be proposed formally this month and, if approved, could see the e-bikes whirring around the Square Mile by May.

Planning chief Chris Hayward told the committee on 19 February that the Corporation had been in talks with dockless e-bike operator Freebike to stage the trial.

He said it was offering what looked to be a “well-managed” option for the Square Mile, as the e-bikes would be limited to being picked up and dropped off in certain locations.

Under the City’s present rules, operators have to remove bikes blocking roads or paths, or cycles presenting a danger or a nuisance, within 90 minutes.

news london
Freebikes could soon be seen whirring around the City of London

But they don’t need local authority permission to set up in an area in the first instance, and the City had previously considered a ban after dumped bikes from various bike-sharing operators had annoyed locals and businesses.

Many councils have been finding they have weak powers to block dockless operators, and have been fielding complaints about people leaving bikes everywhere.

As a result, London Councils and Transport for London have been exploring a Capital-wide byelaw to regulate the bike share schemes.

Until that is in place, boroughs have been striking up agreements with some dockless bike operators willing to work with them.

Promoting cycling is a key plank of the Corporation’s local plans to clean up the Square Mile’s air and reduce heavy traffic, and in November 2017 it allowed an initial six-month trial of dockless bikes.

Subject to approval by another committee on 18 March, the City’s latest trial of the e-bikes could start by May, Cllr Hayward told the committee.

He added that the trial was aimed at testing controls likely to be available to regulate the dockless bikes in future if a London-wide byelaw is adopted.