Livingstone announces major cycling scheme

LONDON Mon Feb 11, 2008 5:13pm GMT

Commuters brave the snow as they cycle outside Buckingham Palace in London February 8, 2007. London will adopt a bicycle hire scheme similar to a popular initiative in Paris under a $1 billion (513 million pound) cycling investment package announced by the mayor on Monday. REUTERS/Dylan Martinez

Commuters brave the snow as they cycle outside Buckingham Palace in London February 8, 2007. London will adopt a bicycle hire scheme similar to a popular initiative in Paris under a $1 billion (513 million pound) cycling investment package announced by the mayor on Monday.

Credit: Reuters/Dylan Martinez

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LONDON (Reuters) - London will adopt a bicycle hire scheme similar to a popular initiative in Paris under a $1 billion (513 million pound) cycling investment package announced by the mayor on Monday.

Under the plan, part of a series of environmental measures due in coming days, 6,000 bicycles will be available for hire from ranks every 600 feet throughout the city centre.

London, which accounts for seven percent of the country's climate changing carbon emissions and is at the forefront of efforts by major cities around the world to combat global warming, plans to cut carbon emissions by 60 percent by 2025.

The Paris bike scheme lets riders with an electronic card take a bike from one rank and return it at another rank anywhere in the city. It has proven popular, transforming traffic in the French capital since it came into operation last July.

Mayor Ken Livingstone's initial announcement did not give details of how much the cycles would cost to rent in London or how Londoners would pay for them.

"We will spend 500 million pounds over the next decade on cycling -- the biggest investment in cycling in London's history, which means that thousands more Londoners can cycle in confidence on routes that take them quickly and safely to where they want to go," Livingstone said in a statement.

"Around 20 percent of the carbon emissions savings we've calculated we can make from transport by 2025 will come from changing the way we travel," he added.

Other aspects of the scheme include new cycle paths and exclusive cycle zones and more bike parking facilities at underground stations across the capital.

Livingstone, facing a tough mayoral election in May with the environment as one of the major campaign issues, said he wanted five percent or 1.7 million of all daily trips in London to be by bike by 2025.

On Tuesday Livingstone is expected to announce his decision to go ahead from October with a plan to charge drivers of gas-guzzling Sport Utility Vehicles 25 pounds a day to drive in central London's congestion charge zone. Ordinary cars pay eight pounds a day to drive in the zone.

A low emission zone targeting heavy lorries came into force on Monday in the 600 square mile area inside the M25 ring road circling the sprawling city.

Added to that, Livingstone was also due to announce a comprehensive plan to fit new filters and equipment to all municipal buildings in the city to cut their carbon emissions.

(Editing by Giles Elgood)

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