IslingtonTribune

The independent London newspaper

Electric bike shock for disabled as pavements are ‘blocked’ in Islington

As third scheme is launched, group warns that pavements are becoming difficult for those with mobility impairments to navigate

26 July, 2019 — By Emily Finch

Andy Greene: ‘Bike hire companies need to speak to us as it has such a direct impact on us navigating the borough’

A DISABILITY rights campaigner has called on bike hire companies to “work with us” as a third electric bike scheme in just four months was introduced to the borough this week.

Andy Greene, from Disability Action in Islington, based in Canonbury, said his group “weren’t consulted” as bike hire scheme Freebike introduced 150 electric bikes into Islington on Tuesday. This follows the introduction of the electric Lime Bikes in March and Uber’s electric Jump bikes in May.

A non-electric bike scheme called Mobike was introduced to the borough two years ago.

Mr Greene, who is a wheelchair user, said he had seen a “rising number” of hire bikes blocking access to pavements for those with mobility impairments in recent months following the various launches.

“These bikes are a growing concern,” he added. “They’ve popped up all over the place and it can be awkward or impossible to get around them if they’re parked inconsiderately. Bike hire companies need to speak to us as it has such a direct impact on us navigating the borough.”

He also called on the companies to create bikes which are accessible to those with mobility impairments.

“I keep asking this but why aren’t these new companies introducing bikes with stabilisers or hand cycles? With all these innovations in technology, they should make it more accessible,” he said.

“I get why these bikes are important given climate change and the need for green modes of transport – disabled people aren’t against it – but we need to be included in any change happening on the roads. It’s not working at the moment.”

Transport for London (TfL) are looking to introduce a pan-London by-law to control where dock less bikes are left but there were warnings this week that this could take a year.

Town Hall environment chief Claudia Webbe joined the owners of Freebike to mark the launch at bike shop Look Mum No Hands, in Old Street on Tuesday. Users can unlock bikes through an app on a smartphone, paying £1 for 10 minutes to use the bike in “electric” mode.

Katharine Butler, of Freebike, told the Tribune that users of her scheme have to pay an extra £1 if they want to park outside designated zones which do not block pavements.

She added: “We’re getting people to be responsible and it is a response to people with disabilities who have problems with walkways. We don’t want people to be dancing around bikes.”

She said she had just applied for an EU grant to expand their range of bikes and had a team of researchers developing tricycles for people with disabilities.

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