Camden to Implement Docking Stations for Dockless Bicycles

Camden and TfL have begun public consultation. But what’s the point in removing ‘dockless’ from ‘dockless bicycle’?

Camden and TfL have begun their consultation on the location of docking stations for dockless bicycles.

Under new regulations providers will need to ensure their bicycles are docked in docking stations, thereby removing the ‘dockless’ from ‘dockless bicycle’.

Camden are planning to repurpose a number of parking spaces across Bloomsbury and the wider area to act as virtual docking stations. They are currently consulting until 6th August 2020 on these locations.

The scheme has been described by Camden as part of a plan to extend the usage of TfL’s hire cycle scheme to the outer reaches of London. Currently TfL’s hire cycles only cover the Central London area.

Dockless bicycles are seen as a cost-effective way to implement this strategy.

But there has been continuing controversy regarding cluttering of the street environment and difficulties caused in navigating the streets when they pile up in numbers, especially from charities such as Age UK and the RNIB.

Implementing docks is seen as a way to combat these problems.

But the purpose of dockless bicycles is to solve the so-called ‘last mile’ problem. The problem with conventional hire-cycle schemes is that there may be a mile or more between a bicycle dock and someone’s house or place of work, meaning using a conventional hire-cycle scheme is not viable. This came to be known as the ‘last mile’ problem.

Introducing bicycles without a docking station was seen as a way to solve this problem, as users could ride their bicycles directly to their place of work or residence.

Forcing providers to have their bicycles docked in certain locations however removes the unique selling point of dockless bicycles, giving them no tangible advantage over TfL’s own hire-cycle scheme.

The long term economic viability of such a scheme should also be seriously questioned. The economic model behind dockless bicycles relies upon underpricing services without making a profit until competitors are driven out of the market, at which point prices are put up to make a profit. But the recent economic downturn has cast questions over whether such an approach remains viable.

And now that the schemes have been forced to operate in a similar manner to TfL’s own hire-cycle scheme, direct competition with TfL means it is unlikely that any company will carve out a significant share of the market. When providers are forced to put up their prices to become profitable, it is also unlikely that prices will be any cheaper than TfL’s own subsidised scheme.

The consultation runs until 6th August 2020.

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