Town mouse on mass cycle hire in London

There are some things I’d thought were above criticism in London. One was the mayoral policy to promote cycling; the other was Boris Johnson himself, who has become something of a cult. Yet when I went to a meeting held by Westminster City Council to address local concerns, both were under attack. People spoke vehemently against the docking stations that are about to appear on our streets.

Readers outside London will need to know that, from May 2010, London will embrace a mass cycle-hire scheme similar to those in Paris and Montreal. Docking stations 400 of them are necessary for the taking and return of bikes, and the swiping of Oyster cards. Admirable and progressive, you might think.

But, alas, it’s like the tale of the telephone box. When British Telecom removed Giles Gilbert Scott’s red kiosks 30 years ago, its replacements were horrible Continental versions, bought off the peg. So it is with the new docking stations. What might fit admirably onto a boulevard by Hausmann could cause the dickens of an obstruction on a narrow London street. Why didn’t Boris hold a competition? London is a creative centre, and his docking stations might, like the red telephone box, have become classics. We want British street furniture, not French hand-me-downs.