Several hundred battery-powered bicycles will be on London’s streets next year in a pilot scheme that breaks new ground in the UK. The bikes will be introduced in some of the capital’s hilliest parts, where steep climbs put many off taking their bike or even walking.
Earmarked corridors will run through Muswell Hill, Crouch End and Alexandra Palace, with a base station at Finsbury Park Tube. Boris bike-style docking stations in these areas will double as electric charging points for the bicycles.
The cost of the £700 e-bikes and hi-tech docking stations will be met out of the Mayor’s £913 million cycling fund.
Metropolitan Police beat officers will be given electric mountain bikes to help in the fight against cycle-mounted crime such as mugging. German-built “Haibikes” costing about £1,000 each can climb stairs and go over rough ground as quickly as a normal bike can travel on a road.
With e-bikes, police will be able to chase criminals into places cars cannot go and make officers more mobile. The Mayor also hopes to lure estate agents out of their branded city cars and on to e-bikes as a convenient way to shuttle between appointments without arriving in a sweat using only pedal power.
Mr Johnson said: “E-bikes are already big on the continent as they take the puff and pant out of cycling. Once again, London leads the way in Britain with new cycling innovations — and the elevated latitudes of Haringey are perfect for this trial.”
Haringey council leader Claire Kober said: “We’re really excited to be Britain’s first e-bikes borough.
“This project with the Mayor underpins our commitment to being one of London’s greenest boroughs and to promoting and rewarding greener travel through improved cycling facilities and sustainable transport across Haringey.
“Together, we can encourage more people to leave cars at home and offer the next generation of cyclists safer, better routes in our borough.”
E-bikes will supplement buses — the area’s only public transport. Routes will lead to Finsbury Park Tube station and will also link into an enhanced network of “quiet ways” of bike-friendly side streets and parks.
Although e-bikes will not link with the established pedal-powered Boris bikes or match that scheme in scale, the Mayor hopes Londoners will acquire the taste for electric bikes and invest in one themselves.
Boris bike sponsors Barclays have been given first refusal as backer of the e-bikes.
Assisted pedal power is much bigger in Holland, where one in five new cycles is an e-bike — and they are particularly popular among older people. Electric bikes are like normal cycles except for a small, battery-powered motor to aid pedalling. No licence, equipment or insurance is needed for one.
They are especially useful in hilly areas, for people who need to ride without breaking sweat or for those who are older or less fit.
Jos Dings, director of Brussels-based lobby group Transport & Environment, said: “Electric bikes are an opportunity and a threat. The amount of accidents involving assisted bikes driven too fast and causing serious accidents is a huge issue. But we’d like to see a shift, with more public money spent on electric bikes instead of electric cars.”