Thursday, August 08, 2019

Dockless Bikes Causing Concerns For Blind And Disabled Pedestrians.

 Registered as blind for 15 years, Deborah Persaud travels around London with guide dog Lewis by her side.

But on recent walks to work, the pair have faced a new challenge on pavements - dockless bikes for hire.

"Lewis has to navigate around them [and] we often end up having to walk onto the road," she said.

"I have bumped into them a few times and that's with Lewis. He is about to retire and I am absolutely terrified of using my white cane."

There has been a rise of tech start-ups offering app-based hire bikes around major cities, enabling customers to book and unlock bikes via an app - which uses GPS to find the nearest one available.

But unlike dock-based models, such as London's Santander Cycles, they can be then be left anywhere within designated parking areas.

Disability activists have said the schemes are causing "dangerous" obstructions for people with visual or mobility impairments in cities.

New to the sector are electric bikes. Lime's E bikes launched in London in December, while ride-hailing firm Uber placed its first fleet of red Jump bikes in Islington in May.

Both firms ask users to park bikes responsibly and out of the way of pedestrians.

But Ms Persaud, 50, from Islington, said pavements in her local area are "littered" with the vehicles.

The civil servant said they often added time to her journey as they blocked routes.

"There were three Jump bikes placed on the pavement in Dalston on 27 July, so we couldn't get on to it," she said.
"On Tuesday morning there were two Lime bikes parked on the pavement in Highbury, so we had to get someone to move them."
"It's frustrating," she added. "They are a hazard."

Dr Amit Patel, who lost his sight suddenly in 2012, said he had incidents where his cane had become trapped in the spokes of the bikes.

But the former University College Hospital doctor - who now relies on guide dog Kika to navigate London - said the worst situation he encountered was when bikes were parked against pedestrian crossings.

This blocks access to the tactile indicator on crossings, which tells visually impaired or blind people when they have right of way.

"It's inconvenient and it's dangerous," he said.
"If you are going to use the schemes, just bear in mind to leave bikes in a safe space."

Paralympian Baroness Tanni Grey-Thompson, who uses a wheelchair, said companies "have to be more responsible".

"The quality of the pavement is really important for disabled people," she said, adding that bikes parked on pavements had "huge potential to cause harm".

She said: "The companies have to send out a really strong message, but actually people just need to think more about others."

Issues have plagued dockless schemes in cities around the UK, with bikes left strewn across pavements, defaced or stolen.
Operators ofo, oBike and Urbo are all reported to have withdrawn from Britain since 2018.

Major operator Mobike last year withdrew from Manchester, Newcastle and Gateshead following vandalism and theft, and the company also shrank its operational area in London.

Transport for London and the capital's councils are now working to pass a new city-wide by-law to ensure schemes "are safely and responsibly managed", Michael Hurwitz, director of transport innovation at TfL, said.

The by-law is designed to work across borough boundaries and address problems such as pavements being blocked, according to London Councils.

Under current legislation operators do not require consent from the borough or TfL to operate.

But the manager of Disability Action in Islington, Andy Greene, said the bikes do not "dovetail with creating an environment which is inclusive" and wants the companies to go further.

Mr Greene, who uses a wheelchair, urged more schemes to roll out bikes that can be accessed by people with a range of impairments, such as hand bikes or three wheeled bikes.

"We seem to be back to 50 years ago when one size fits all," he said.

'Every effort'
A spokeswoman for Lime said the firm was "disappointed" to hear its bikes had been found obstructing pavements.

"Lime's network of e-bikes is maintained by a local operations team to ensure they are positioned considerately and, since our bikes require battery changes every few days, we are in very regular contact with our fleet," she said.

"Our team also works to ensure that improperly parked bikes flagged through our customer service channels are dealt with in an appropriate and timely manner."

A spokeswoman for Uber said customers should "take the time to park responsibly".

"Anyone found to be riding or parking bicycles irresponsibly may lose access to Jump," she added.

Going back to the statement made by Lime eBikes:
‘Lime's network of e-bikes is maintained by a local operations team to ensure they are positioned considerately’

This wasn’t the case outside Sudbury Hill underground station. Bikes were strewn across the pavement outside the exit often blocking the way to prams, baby-buggies and worst of all Wheelchair users. 

Complaints to TfL and Harrow council fell on deaf ears and so locals decide to move the bikes to inaccessible places and it didn’t take long fro Lime to get the message.

For years seating outside restaurants, fruit and veg shops encroaching onto the pavement, billboards outside pubs and cafes were a no no, but amazingly, when TfL introduced Boris Bikes, no thought was given to disabled and visually impaired residents. In some streets mothers have to push their prams into the road to get by the bank of Boris Bikes. 

One rule for TfL and another for everyone else. 

And now we have dockless bikes which can be left anywhere. 


Anonymous said...

'was "disappointed" to hear its bikes had been found obstructing pavements.' Yeah, I bet these companies are, as they calculate their earnings from operations that are a danger to society's vulnerable population - particularly, the disabled & elderly! Anything, goes now for all these "start up & gig merchants" but have a fruit & veg stall protrude a few inches & the council gestapo will annihilate the owner. How is it that all these a***holes are allowed to operate with impunity or fear of prosecution if they break the law. However, 'normal' businesses will have to conform to all laws/regulations & pay exorbitant rates. So why is there a law for one type of business but that doesn't apply to others? It is very strange as it could be assumed councils and the government could judge this situation as being an 'earner' for them via laws & regulations/fees, etc. Therefore, why isn't this the case and they are allowed to operate how they wish, basically, why are they not clamped down on .....................mmmmmm..............are you thinking the it couldn't be could it?

Anonymous said...

Here is more proof that TfL,various boroughs (Camden,Hackney,Islington,Westminster ,I could go on)don’t give a toss about wheelchair users,Blind,the elderly, parents with prams & small children ,also it seems Baroness TGT doesn’t want to get involved anymore now she’s got her pension sorted.

Anonymous said...

In China there all in a big tangled heap then no one uses them.
Just a lot of scrap metal.