Author: Cyril Richert
Zipcar have recently launched an additional service in all of Wandsworth, along with parts of Merton, Sutton and south Lambeth, called Zipcar Flex. This service allows Zipcar members to make one-way journeys, rather than having to pick up and return a car from/to a dedicated car club parking bay. The Flex vehicles are permitted to park anywhere a resident can, including resident-only and shared-use bays, i.e. there are no dedicated bays.
In a recent email, Andy Flood, Principal Transport Planner for Wandsworth and Richmond said:
“We are expecting there to be no more than 150 or so of these Flex vehicles parked across the borough on any day, and if they are parked in your street it is likely to be because someone on your street has used the service (in the same way that any other car parked on your street is likely to have been used by someone in the area). […] Over time it is expected to help reduce car ownership levels, which in turn will mean more parking space being available for people who want to continue owning a car themselves, including resident permit holders.”
The email is using repetitive wishful wording such as: “it is expected“, “likely“…etc. Already the number of “no more than 150 or so of these Flex vehicles parked across the borough” is contradicted by the Council’s press release this summer, which said: “There are initially 300 ‘floating’ cars in use across the ‘Zipzone’ with more likely to be introduced as new members subscribe.”
In theory it looks like a good idea. In practice, it seems to have been implemented without any regulation and forward thinking.
A local resident said:
“A Zipcar has been parked for several days outside my house, SW11, which falls under parking zone C2. I thought this unusual and reported it to Zipcar. Their response was that Zipcars can now be left in residents’ bays indefinitely in a number of South London boroughs, i.e. including Wandsworth. This seems unfair to residents, who to my knowledge have never been consulted about this consequent reduction in the bays available for residents, who pay for their parking permits. In other words, if I’ve understood correctly, someone who has no connection whatsoever with Wandsworth can leave a Zipcar indefinitely in a residents’ bay.”
Zipcar Flex are allowed almost anywhere within the Zipzone – just make sure the bays or spaces are one of the following: Permit Holders Only, Permit Holders or Pay & Display and On street – No restrictions (no yellow lines, red routes).
There is currently no way to report a car to Zipcar and have them removed it (although apparently the Council can request that). Therefore, in addition to adding to the parking constraint in some areas, it could also cause issues in case of temporary parking restriction (construction work, removal work… etc).
On the other hand, Wandsworth Council is confiscating bikes that are not locked on dedicated locking station
Following a series of complaint from residents (and several articles in the Evening Standard, City A.M. or Wired.co.uk) Wandsworth Council decided to confiscate 130 new rental bikes from the Singapore-based stationless bicycle-sharing system oBike. They were introduced in July as a competitor to the Mayor’s cycle scheme, but they do not use docking stations and can be left anywhere. The GPS-tracked bikes are unlocked by scanning a code on the bike via an app. Users simply leave them wherever they want with other hirers tracking them down via an app, in a similar way to Zipcar Flex.
The bike company has been accused of littering London’s streets with abandoned cycles. On Twitter you can find dozen of pictures posted by residents complaining about the obikes cluttering cities and dumped anywhere. On Wikipedia, you can read that several cities worldwide such as Melbourne in Australia, Amsterdam in Netherlands, Beijing in China decided to ban them from public areas.
A press release from the Council said:
“Masses have been found outside Clapham Junction station where they have blocked pavements and caused problems for pedestrians but also especially for people in wheelchairs and parents with buggies. […] We have received a flood of complaints about these bikes obstructing pavements, blocking parking spaces and even being chucked in people’s front gardens.”
But others are highlighting that there seem to be a double standard here:
And this time, Councillor Cook is not proudly promoting the scheme as he said that “without a drastic re-think, and proper consultation with all the capital’s highway authorities this particular scheme, as it stands, is not the answer”. Where was the proper consultation on Zipcar Flex?