Cyclists' fury after more than 100 oBike hire cycles are seized in clampdown

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Furious cyclists have criticised a London council’s decision to seize more than 100 hire bikes from the borough’s streets.

Wandsworth Council has confiscated 130 oBikes after “masses” of the new “dockless” bicycles were found blocking pavements outside Clapham Junction station.

The local authority has told the start-up firm behind the scheme they need to “re-think the way their business operates” before they release the seized bicycles.

But angry cyclists said confiscating the bikes was “excessive” and asked the council to instead look for a solution such as providing more parking spaces for bicycles.

One said: “Ever [considered that] there might not be enough official bike parking for everyone who wants to ride? 

“Why not prioritise that, unless you actually want to maintain a hostile environment for cycling?”

Cycling: A south-west London council has seized more than 100 of the cycle-hire bicycles oBikes after they were rolled out in the capital last month. (Wandsworth Council)

Another said: “Shame on Wandsworth [for] not helping this company rather than hindering them, typical public sector attitudes.”

One Twitter user said: “When are you going to start removing all the cars parked on the pavements everywhere? Only bikes? Not doing your job.”

And another wrote: “A company contributes to public transport at no cost to the council. Perhaps working with them using parking would be more productive.”

Jonathan Cook, transport spokesman for the council, said the decision was taken after the authority received “floods” of complaints about where the bikes had been placed.

He said: “We have received a flood of complaints about these bikes obstructing pavements, blocking parking spaces and even being chucked in people’s front gardens.

A mangled oBike left around Tower Hamlets in London. (Ralph Hardwick)

“We are happy to support an initiative that gets more people using bikes, but 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.”

The row comes after Hammersmith and Fulham Council told the Singapore-based firm to remove its bikes until a consultation with them takes place.

The west London council took a different approach, issuing the bikes with highway obstruction notices after they were spotted in “obstructive” places.

Like ‘Boris Bikes’, known officially as Santander Cycles, oBike’s system allows cyclists to rent bicycles for a fee for every 30-minute journey.

A damaged oBike was thrown on to the tracks at Lewisham station. (Bernard Cullen)

Last month, to company became the first “dockless” bicycle hire scheme to be rolled out in London.

Since they were introduced, pictures emerged of some of the bikes having been vandalised.

Mr Cook added: “We all want to encourage cycling and other sustainable forms of transport but it is rather naïve to simply dump thousands of bicycles on London’s streets without any warning or discussion beforehand.”

It comes after Will Norman, the Greater London Authority’s walking and cycling commissioner, said the GLA has the power to remove bikes from the capital’s streets if they are causing safety problems.

He told City Hall’s transport committee: “We need the dockless bike hire companies to work with us and with the boroughs. We have got the powers to remove them (the bikes) if they are causing any dangers or obstructions.”

The cycle-hire firm has been approached for comment.

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