Ken Livingstone has pledged to make ‘Boris bikes’ free under the Freedom Pass scheme ahead of the first debate before May’s election.
The Labour mayoral candidate’s promise to make the Cycle Hire Scheme free to older people in London would come at no extra cost to the boroughs which manage and fund the Freedom Pass. The total cost of the plan would be less than £250,000 a year, Livingstone claims.
Livingstone has unveiled the plan as he and mayor of London, Boris Johnson, prepare for the Older People’s hustings, which will see the two clash in a debate for the first time in the campaign.
The pledge is likely to go down well with the older people at the hustings and also represents an interesting campaign move by Livingstone. The Cycle Hire Scheme is a key part of Boris’ London and colloquially bares his name, while older people are traditionally seen as the core of the Conservative vote.
Two thirds (68 per cent) of users of the scheme are aged between 25 and 44, while three quarters (75 per cent) are male, according to a recent London Assembly investigation quoted by Livingstone. Four out of five users are white and 60 per cent have a household income over £50,000 per annum.
“Why shouldn’t older Londoners play their full part in the life of London? Age should not be an obstacle to people enjoying the cycle scheme. Older Londoners are active citizens too and rather than see the cycle hire scheme continue to be monopolised by a relatively exclusive group of customers, I want to open it up for everyone,” said Livingstone.
“60 per cent of the cycle hire scheme users have a household income over £50,000. That’s not a very wide user-profile.
Livingstone said no investment in extra bikes will be required to facilitate the free membership for older people because the scheme is not yet at capacity and an increasing number of users have said they will not be renewing their membership.
“Today I am pledging to offer to the boroughs that we apply the Freedom Pass to the Cycle Hire scheme so that it will be free, as with public transport, for older Londoners. It will cost less than the price of Boris Johnson’s £250,000 ‘chicken feed’ second salary.
“The Cycle Hire Scheme is a good scheme in principle but a part-time mayor meant that the detail wasn’t done. He failed to think through how to make it work well for the widest number of people and many Londoners who could and should be utilising the scheme are missing out.”