Hire firms may face £500 fines over dumped bikes in London

MARK BLUNDEN

Bike-share firms face being fined up to £500 a time in an effort to stop dockless cycles being left strewn around London under plans being considered by town halls.

A new by-law is being drawn up which would make tech start-ups such as Mobike, Lime and Uber-owned Jump responsible for ensuring their cycles are left inside designated spaces.

It would be an offence for an operator to “cause or permit their dockless vehicle to be left on the highway or public place other than in an approved location”, punishable by a fine up to £500.

Every bike would be tracked using a signal from a device on the frame, with riders expected to be prevented from checking in to end journeys outside the agreed parking zones.

Thousands of cycles have flooded central London in the pay-as-you-ride boom, pitched as an eco-alternative to short-hop bus, Tube or cab trips.

Users download an app which employs GPS to show where the nearest available bicycle can be found. They then scan a QR code to release the lock. But photographs on social media show hire bikes dumped in canals and the river, on railway tracks and pavements and in gardens.

Last month, the Standard pictured five bikes in mud along the foreshore outside Parliament.

Local authorities have been powerless to regulate the schemes beyond impounding bikes blocking roads or considered a danger.

The new proposal, drawn up under a 1972 law to “suppress nuisance”, is being circulated around every council in the capital for approval before going back before London Councils’ transport committee in October.

If approved, each area would be able to decide on appropriate parking zones, or to opt out and provide no parking.

It would also apply to electric scooters or other micromobility vehicles in the event these become road-legal. Kensington and Chelsea council welcomed the proposed rule.

It has already asked operators not to deploy their bikes in the borough, but has been unable to prevent cycles being left there by customers.

Officials say this has led to complaints of “inappropriate parking” blocking pavements for wheelchairs, pushchairs and the visually impaired.

A London Councils spokeswoman said the by-law would bring greater clarity and a pan-London approach.

A spokeswoman for Uber, which launched Jump with 350 electric bikes in Islington in May, said: “All Jump bikes are GPS-tracked and have built-in cable locks which can be locked to street infrastructure.

"Together with councils, we’re providing clear guidelines in-app and on all bikes, to help avoid cluttering and ensure responsible use and parking.”