Bike Share London

JUMP Leaps Into London – Now It Gets Interesting

New JUMP bikes on the forecourt outside Highbury & Islington station.

JUMP, Uber’s electric-assist dockless bikeshare, arrives in London today, with a 350-bike trial in north London, focused on Islington borough. The organisation is also looking to expand to other London boroughs later this summer. Interestingly, the app right now is showing the operating area as covering not just Islington, but southern Camden, Hackney, southern Waltham Forest and the western edge of Tower Hamlets borough, as well as the City of London:

JUMP’s apparent initial launch area. If they are focusing on Islington as their operations borough, then this “buffer” of surrounding areas, that you can finish a journey in that you started in Islington, makes a lot of sense.

We’ve had quite a few dockless bikeshare operations trying to crack the London market, with its huge potential, but fragmented cooperation/approval process split between 33 boroughs – some with an existing significant cycling culture and others very much car-dominated – has meant success has been mixed. First, oBike appeared out nowhere in summer 2017, before disappearing almost as quickly as councils freaked out and impounded some. Then, later in 2017 and through 2018, Ofo, Mobike and Urbo went for a more controlled approach – however only Mobike has survived to 2019 – and only by pruning right down and then expanding to just core, well established zones. Finally, Lime launched in 2018, but have only recently, officially at least, made it to the inner city.

JUMP has bided its time, watched these other players and is coming to market in London with a significant proposition. We knew they were (probably) coming, thanks to their prominent sponsorship of a relevant trade conference in London last year year, followed a few months later by some job adverts for fleet management. Since then, it’s been very quiet, until now.

Their patience has allowed them to refine a cost model, sensible operating area and bike suitable for the London market. Islington is a great base to start with – it allows cycling into almost the centre of London (the City and the revitalised King’s Cross area both being on the border). They are not wasting time with helping boroughs with a car problem try and encourage cycling (hello Enfield, Brent, Croydon, Bromley, Hounslow, Redbridge, Newham) – something the councils should be doing themselves rather than relying on a fully commercial entity that focus on financial, not societal decisions. Unsurprisingly, the councils have then found these services disappearing soon after launch. Instead, they are starting in a place where people already see cyclists on the road (and surviving/thriving) and are therefore likely to start themselves.

They have also got a sensible cost proposition. Mobike, Urbo and Ofo all started out at a fantastically cheap 50p per bike but soon ended up having to charge £2 to start – the bus is cheaper, and Santander Cycles are the same price and more reliable. Lime launched with a fee that is quite widely acknowledged as being way too expensive – a five minute journey costs more than a bus or out-of-Zone-1 tube trip. JUMP have found a sensible medium, with £1 to start but then the first 5 minutes free, and then 12p/min. Finally, they have invested to tackle the biggest problem with London dockless bikeshare systems at present – poorly parked bikes cluttering up pavements, being an eyesore and generally annoying everyone. They are achieving this by starting with a small number of bikes – but also the bikes come with cable locks rather than the “wheel locks” seen on the other dockless systems. The lock is long enough to loop around a bike parking stand or through a fence. They are not initially requiring users to do this at the end of their journey, but I wouldn’t be suprised if they mandate this in the future, in order to better control street clutter and theft – the two biggest issues with bikeshares in London thus far.

Perhaps most importantly of all, JUMP is owned by Uber, and this means the bikes are in the Uber app as an option to booking a cab driver. This is a really big deal. In London, only dedicated enthusiasts will download a dedicated app for occasionally bikeshare usage – if you want to use Lime Bike, you have to install the Lime Bike app – but a lot of people have the standard navigation apps on their phone – Google Maps, CityMapper – and Uber. Now, one of those apps suddenly has bikeshare fully integrated in. If it’s £5 to get an Uber home but the app tells you about an electric-assist bike 100m away and that it will only cost you £2 – it’s a no-brainer. You access the bikes through the regular Uber app – press the toggle at the top and choose “Bikes”:

Choose “Bike” and see the magic.

Uber are saying that it is only possible to book a bike when you are in the operating area – this should manage usage quite effectively, particularly as the operating area is large and contains many potential trips (i.e. north inner London into the City and parts of the West End). Right now, the bikes are all reporting their location at a warehouse just off Blackhorse road in east London, but presumably they will be driven (or cycled – that would be nice) down to Angel, Highbury, Finsbury Park, Old Street and other key locations in the borough, for the formal launch later this morning:

JUMP bikes, in the morning of the launch, already spreading beyond Islington (a tall, thin borough in the middle of the marked blue operating area) and indeed one is beyond the operating area altogether (to the south-west). The ones to the north-east are in the warehouse.

From a research perspective, Uber have committed to releasing aggregated data about how their bikeshare is used, similar to what they already do for Uber cab journeys. We haven’t got live GBFS bike locations for JUMP in London, unlike for JUMP in many other cities in the US, but only because we in the UK are poor at asking operators to provide this – but you can’t have everything!

I think that, finally, we might have a dockless bikeshare in London, that works for London.

Olympic Park

The Orbit


Part 2 of a writeup of a press preview tour of the Queen Elizabeth Olympic Park – thanks to Diamond Geezer for passing his invite to me – see Part 1, about the South Park itself, here.

The visit to the South Park was finished up with a trip to the Orbit – the huge red sculpture that is “Marmite” to east Londoners. I hadn’t made it up during 2012 when it was last open, what with needing a combination of a timed Olympic Park ticket and a timed Orbit ticket, both tricky to obtain, with a lot of people presumably wanting to go up it to see what was going on in the Olympic Stadium. I wasn’t convinced that, with a now empty stadium being reconstructed in a park that still has a number of other “brownfield” sites, the view would be that interesting, but was very happy to be proved wrong.

The main viewing platform at the Orbit is 80 metres high – the sculpture itself being 114m tall. That’s not nearly as high as the Shard or even the London Eye, but because east London is still relatively low-rise, and because the surrounding Queen Elizabeth Olympic Park is spacious and not crowded with the buildings of an inner city, the platform gives the illusion that you are actually quite a lot higher.

13550326755_6acb06c8d6_bWhile you wait for the lift up you can admire the giant rust-coloured metal bell which fills the lower space. The sculptor insisted on total darkness within the space, so tiny pieces of light shining through rivets and welds had to be fixed, the result is a surreal experience of being below a giant bell-shaped dome, receding into darkness and apparently suspended in mid-air.

Once up in the Orbit itself, there’s a couple of outdoor platforms, facing north-west and south-east – and also an indoor space, from where you can look south-west and also to an inner void looking down the structure of the Orbit itself. The glass was a little bit dusty (maybe from the Saharan weather we have at the moment) and also somewhat reflective, so the experience is much better on the outside platforms. Semi-pro photographers might be perturbed that the outside platforms have quite small mesh fencing, so it’s difficult to poke a DSLR camera lens through for a clear shot. Plenty of space for cameraphones though. Once you’ve drunk in the view, there are a number of helpful and enthusiastic staff in the indoor space, ready to answer your questions on what you were looking at – I tested them out on their knowledge of the Crossrail portal location and the appearance of some allotment huts and they seemed to know their stuff.


The view over into the Olympic Stadium was more complete than I was expecting – this is simply because the roof and lighting gantries are temporarily gone for the footballisation of the venue. The general city views were also excellent – the City and Canary Wharf clusters of skyscrapers being roughly the same distance away, mean they balanced rather well. Stratford itself is having a go at being a third (smaller, closer) skyscraper cluster and to some extent is managing to pull off the look. Finally, to the east the Aquatic Centre (“Come swim in the World’s Best Swimming Pool”) looks especially impressive when viewed from the Orbit – the famous, and expensive, flowing roof and huge glass side looking particularly stunning from above. Westfield is – to be honest – a bit of an eyesore from high up. Ironically, the older Stratford Shopping Centre looks more attractive, with its colourful “fish scale” wall glinting in the distance. In time, Westfield will get masked by the International Quarter development which will squeeze behind the Aquatic Centre.


The other thing to note is it’s not all about the view. The primary purpose of the Orbit is not as a building (like the Shard) or a tourist attraction (like the London Eye) but it is first and foremost a piece of public art. A very red, rather large and not at all subtle piece, but an artwork nonetheless – and unmistakably an Anish Kapoor creation. A lot of people will look at its asymmetric, organic skyline, from a distance and think it ugly. I did and still do – from a distance. It delights in being the opposite of Paris’s Eiffel Tower, with a geometry as imperfect as possible. Up close though, it reveals itself as a very complex beast and does have a subtle beauty from certain angles.

One disappointment is that the Orbit will not be open to the public in the evenings – so no great views of sunsets over central London, at least in the summer months. I suspect this is due to a nervousness that it will not attract the level of visitors needed to justify staying open in the evenings – I wonder if the struggling Cable Car has proved that not everything built in London is instantly popular. It’s a shame though as the evening is probably the best time to experience the view. Certainly, being up in the tower, when the pulsating red lights are shining on and from it in the evening, is a bit of a spectacle.


Finally, getting back down is an experience in itself. First you need to pass two large distorting mirrors – a bit of a disturbing sensation if you are already on edge from the height. Then you have 445 steps down in a spiralling cage, initially anticlockwise, then doubling back. The route is not a perfect spiral, so there are some sections with a lot of empty air below the floor! You do still get a view through the cage though, and also up to the Orbit itself.

So, I’m a bit of a convert to London’s new and unsubtle sculpture, with the proviso of course that my trip to see it was free. You want to pick a day of good weather to visit, but the shape of the Orbit itself means it’s more than just another tall building to soak up a view from – the interest is as much inward to the object itself, as outward to the park and London.

All my photos from the South Park preview.

Leisure Orienteering Events Log

Dunwich Dynamo 2009

This is an annual 180km self-supported ride from London Fields in Hackney, to the beach at Dunwich in Suffolk. As it’s a free turn-up-and-go event, it’s all quite informal – people just turn up at the Pub in the Park and then start to head off. The catch – it’s a night time event. I started at 8:50pm…

I was riding with Jenn and Michal, also trying out various new accessories I’d bought in the day – a fell-runners’ bag, saddle bag, frame bag, padded shorts, a proper cycling top, cleats and a couple of bike lights (which proved to be woefully underpowered.)

There most have been close to a thousand cyclists in this year’s Dynamo, taking advantage of the calm, dry and clear weather, although it got surprisingly chilly quite quickly.

The pace was far faster than I was expecting – once we had passed the highest point of the route (Epping Forest) the pace really went up and we pushed hard until the food stop at 100km, arriving at around 1:15am. The pace then on was also quite fast, at one point a wonderful 10km with the Dulwich cycling club peloton. Then, as dawn broke properly, we started to tire a lot.


We finally made it to Dunwich at 6:10am (ride time 7h 23, + 2 hours of breaks) where the cooked breakfast in the cafe was very welcome – the rain shower, the first of the night, wasn’t. We took a risk, cycling 8km through the second rain shower to get the first local train of the day. 20 others had the same idea, but the guard let us on, and three hours later we were back in London. An extra 50km to cycle to Ipswich for the main-line trains was thanfully avoided.

img_0404The high point was tearing down the Suffolk Coastal District part in the back of a fast-moving (~35km/h) peloton. The low point was definitely waiting for the rain to clear at Dunwich and dreading the cycle to Ipswich. The most memorable sight was seeing a long stream of flashing red lights in front of me, sweeping around invisible corners.

Despite the pain near the end, it was great fun and good training for when I set off to cycle the length of Britain (Thurso to London) in a couple of weeks time.

We spent a couple of hours taking breaks, including nearly an hour at the 100km feed station. The first 100km was virtually without stopping, but the latter section had more frequent stops, as Michal’s bike started to make strange mechanical sounds and so he limited his speed. We also took a couple of wrong turns later on, although we found straightforward shortcuts back onto the main route. At one point, Michal and I thought Jenn, who was generally the fastest of us three and was ahead most of the time, had missed a sharp turn and headed off to the coast 10km south of Dunwich. However, after a bit of worrying, it turned out she had made the turn after all.

On the back of a disturbed night the night before, and obviously no sleep at all last night, I don’t feel too bad right now. However I did nod off numerous times on the packed train back from Ipswich to London.

Drinks-wise I got through 1 litre of Lucozade and around 1 litre of water, + coffee at the feed station and at the cafe at the end. Food I ate included some chewy sweets, three Power-bars and few Clif Shot Bloks. At the half-way point a had a pasta salad plate and a couple of bananas. At the end I had an SIS sport bar and a Clif bar, as well as the cooked breakfast. As a consequence I didn’t bonk at all and feel fine now!

[osm_map lat=”51.886″ long=”0.779″ zoom=”8″ width=”500″ height=”350″ gpx_file=”/files/2009/07/04-jul-09-20_53.gpx”]



London to Oxford

[Updated] I cycled from London to Oxford yesterday, initially taking quite a southerly route out of London, before heading north-west. This was to ensure that the Thames was followed for as long as possible, minimising climb, and because the more direct routes, via High Wycombe or Amersham, are in deep valleys with only major roads (e.g. the A40) – or very steep roads – going up them. As well as being beside the Thames at both the start and the finish, I crossed it three times – at Teddington, Chertsey and Henley.

The route was 118km from London Bridge to the centre of Oxford, and had only one big hill – the 200m concave climb out of Henley up onto Christmas Common at the top of the Chilterns. Following the Thames here would mean taking a very long detour down to Reading and back up through Didcot. The Henley to Oxford road is a B-road but is actually very quiet, and was very pleasant to follow. It goes through the legendary hamlet of “Pishill”.

There were two large drops – one on the immediate approach to Henley which is a 10% gradient down around 80m – I hit around 50km/h here. This was however beaten by the 60km/h descent on another 10% gradient drop, at the top of the climb up into the Chilterns.

I was aiming to get to Oxford for around 4pm, to gatecrash the end of the Pembroke College Garden Party and then hopefully watch the end of the summer VIIIs regatta on the river. As I was on my own, I pushed the pace all the way, and only took brief stops. I completed the 118km route in 4h50, plus around 50 minutes of stops and breaks, an average of around 25km/h including hills, which is far above my planned pace for my Thurso to London trip later this summer.

I’m pleased to have completed this ride, in good time and without much effort, as my previous attempt, cycling from Oxford to London around five years ago, ended at Reading. I was on a very old hybrid bike and had optimistically started at 3pm in the afternoon, following National Cycle Route 5, which takes a very meandering route with lots of climb through the Chilterns, rather than following the river as I had hoped.

The route: This is the “idealised” route, routed using OpenStreetMap and Google Maps routing data, rather than my actual route, which included a couple of wrong turns and unplanned detours, largely due to quirks in the routing. I took no map, trusting completely in my Garmin Forerunner 305 turn-based directions, created using Bike Route Toaster, which also creates and loads onto the GPS a profile map – useful for counting down to the top of the climbs.

[osm_map lat=”51.58″ long=”-0.69″ zoom=”9″ width=”500″ height=”300″ gpx_file=”/files/2009/07/londontooxford.gpx”]

[Update – GPX file here]



London to Brighton – Again

I’ve already cycled from London to Brighton, but my new housemate suggested it on Saturday morning as it was such a nice day, so off we went.

The route and profile were pretty much the same time, so I won’t repeat them again here. The only variations were starting a couple of miles further back (as I’ve moved house), taking a pleasant detour through Tooting Park as Clapham High Street was closed, and not doing the kilometre-lengthening bit along Madeira Drive in Brighton itself. We also started earlier (just before midday) so the sun set this time when I was on the top of Ditchling Beacon, not at the bottom of it.

The traffic was noticeably busier, both in London and along the country lanes, which was a shame really – but using smaller roads would probably result in an even longer and hillier route. The cars going up and down the narrow road that climbs up Ditchling Beacon were particularly unpleasant.

Moving time was 5h 10 – slightly disappointingly taking 7 minutes longer than last year. However I was in considerably less pain this time and felt a lot fresher at the end – and didn’t get lost on the way from the sea-front to the station. Was too tired to get up early the following day though, so yet another weekend without orienteering.