Rotherhithe Tunnel cycle hire station
The Santander Cycles scheme now extends as far out as Rotherhithe

Greenwich Council has signalled it could back an expansion of London’s cycle hire scheme to the borough along the route of the new Cycleway 4.

Southeast London was mostly not included in the London Cycle Hire network when it launched under Boris Johnson in 2010, although an extension into east London in 2012 brought the scheme to the Isle of Dogs, meaning riders can hire bikes from the north side of the Greenwich Foot Tunnel, but not the south. Last year, the network was extended as far as Canada Water station in Rotherhithe, with five new hire stations along the first section of the newly-built Cycleway 4.

Past extensions of the scheme have had to be paid for by councils and Greenwich has traditionally baulked at the cost. In 2015 it said an extension would cost £5m to £6m to install and £1.3m per year to run for an expansion of 45 docking stations.

But the extension to Canada Water and cheaper new bikes has cut the possible cost, councillors heard last night – with the possibility that developers along the route of Cycleway 4 could be tapped up for funds.

Conservative councillor Matt Clare – a longstanding advocate of bringing the scheme to the borough – said he had written to TfL to raise the issue, and asked the cabinet member for transport, Sizwe James, if he would work alongside him to secure an extension to Greenwich and possibly to Charlton.

Creek Road
Cycleway works are under way on Creek Road in Deptford

“While we know funding is a challenge, TfL is open to the suggestion of working with the developers who are building tens of thousands of homes in southeast London and also the large leisure businesses in our borough and in Lewisham,” he said.

“The costs of an extension to Greenwich have fallen significantly since we first suggested an extension in 2015, with Santander Cycles going as far as Canada Water, there’s a less of a gap, and the cost of the bikes have has fallen by 20 per cent.”

James praised Clare’s work and said he had spoken to Heidi Alexander, the deputy mayor of transport, about the issue, and that “the dialogue is open”.

“We’re looking at exploring how we can take this forward and I’m happy to collaborate and if we can find a way to bring this to the borough, given the constraints that we have, and the constraints that TfL have, it would be a win-win.” (watch here from 46:30)

While the future of Santander Cycles has been questioned amid the rise and fall of other cycle hire schemes – in 2018/19, each journey was subsidised by 96p, roughly the same as a bus journey – last December Will Norman, Sadiq Khan’s walking and cycling commissioner, said it would be “insane” to rip out the scheme and an independent review of TfL’s finances recommended retaining it. With travellers advised against using public transport during the pandemic, more than 333,000 new users signed up for the scheme last year.

Major developments along the route of Cycleway 4, which would eventually link Tower Bridge with Deptford, Greenwich Charlton and Woolwich, include British Land’s Canada Water scheme – which on its own includes a £33 million commitment to improve transport – and the Convoys Wharf scheme in Deptford, as well as proposals for thousands of homes on the Charlton riverside.

At present just two sections of Cycleway 4 are complete – between Tower Bridge and Rotherhithe Tunnel roundabout and a temporary section through east Greenwich. Construction orders are in place to begin work on the Lewisham borough section of the route – from Bestwood Street to Deptford Church Street – from next month, while work on the Greenwich section on Creek Road is under way.

A temporary cycle lane with wands is in place through east Greenwich and is currently being extended to Anchor and Hope Lane in Charlton. Widened bus lanes have been put in place between Charlton and Woolwich to accommodate cyclists for now.

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