TfL told to look into a London licensing regime for dockless cycle hire and driverless buses for the capital

OBike is one of a flurry of dockless cycle hire schemes which launched in London last year (Source: Getty)
Transport for London (TfL) and mayor Sadiq Khan have been told to look into a London-wide licensing system for dockless cycle hire in a new report from the London Assembly Transport Committee.

The report weighs up how the capital's transport body is preparing for the development of new technology in the transport sector, and calls for more research into driverless buses in London and a regulatory regime for "demand-responsive bus services" too.

The report said:

There have been recent failures in London's preparations for innovative transport services, notably the rapid growth of private hire operator Uberand the disruptive launch of dockless cycle hire service oBike.

OBike's launch last July did not go down well with councils, which said the firm had not consulted them before a raft of bikes was suddenly left obstructing footpaths and creating potential hazards. 

This has not dampened rising interest in dockless cycle hire services operated through apps in the capital though, with Ofo, Mobike and Urbo all cropping up. 

TfL launched a code of practice in September 2017, which the Committee welcomed, but said this could go further. The report calls for the number of operators to be limited "to allow for competition, but avoiding an excessive number of unused bikes being left to clutter pavements and roads".

Keith Prince, chairman of the London Assembly Transport Committee, said: "Autonomous vehicles could make roads safer. Dockless bikes could spread the benefits of cycling to the whole city and demand-responsive buses could give people a public transport service tailored to their needs.

"The opportunity to improve mobility for millions of Londoners is here but it will require proper planning, transparency and accountability, as well as cooperation with government, boroughs and development companies."

Other recommendations made in the report include considering the development and impact of driverless buses on London, with a review to be carried out in the next year, and further exploring the likely scale and impact of commercial drone use in the capital. 

The Committee says the mayor and TfL should also engage in discussions with the government, boroughs and operators to start developing a "new regulatory regime" for demand-responsive bus services. These should include requirements to serve areas with less dense public transport coverage, and accessibility for older and disabled passengers. 

Transport app Citymapper launched its own bus route last year, while Ford has also brought its Chariot commuter shuttle bus service to the capital across four routes.

Members of the GLA are also keen that TfL seek reciprocal agreements with app developers, so data produced by apps which are powered by underlying TfL data is then shared back with the organisation too. 

Michael Hurwitz, director of transport innovation at TfL, said:

"This report outlines the challenges that all cities across the UK, including London, face when considering how transport will operate in the future. We work with a wide range of tech companies around the world to support and learn from innovation that could improve transport across London.

“As part of the mayor’s Transport Strategy, many of these elements are already being considered and TfL is involved in a number of pilots and initiatives to help ensure that any introduction of new technology such as autonomous vehicles and drones is safe, environmentally-friendly and consistent with our focus on walking, cycling and green public transport," he added

from Taxi Leaks