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Boris refuses to test accessible version of cycle hire scheme

London’s mayor could be breaching his Equality Act duties by refusing to trial an accessible version of his cycle hire scheme, it has been claimed.

Boris Johnson launched his high-profile cycle scheme – which is sponsored by Barclays – in 2010, allowing anyone to hire a bike from one of hundreds of “docking” points across the city.

The scheme – which is not accessible to many disabled people – has so far been used more than 10 million times, with nearly 140,000 cycles being hired every week.

But despite the scheme’s apparent success, the mayor has refused to pilot a scheme that would allow disabled Londoners and tourists to increase their enjoyment of the city’s royal parks by hiring one of a small number of accessible hand-cycles.

The idea was suggested by disabled access consultant Tracey Proudlock, a wheelchair-user who lives in north London, who wrote to Johnson about her idea in January 2011, and has suggested Hyde Park as the venue for a pilot.

She thought it would be an ideal scheme to trial in the lead-up to the London 2012 Paralympics.

She said: “If you invested some money in having some decent bikes than I think it would be a big success.

“It’s about just getting a little bit fitter and getting out and having a good time.”

Johnson passed Proudlock’s idea to his deputy, Richard Barnes, who met with Proudlock last year but has now told her the mayor’s office was “not able to progress this particular idea”.

She suggested that the mayor’s refusal to set up an accessible trial of the scheme could be a breach of his public sector equality duty under the Equality Act.

Among the problems the mayor’s team blame for turning down the idea include the difficulty of finding space for the docking stations for the hand-cycles, problems with designing a bike “to suit all disabilities”, and ensuring the bikes were evenly spread across all the hire stations, as well as the cost of the project.

But Proudlock said all of these problems could be easily solved, particularly as there were many existing suppliers of hand-cycles, and the pilot scheme could be restricted to just one of London’s spacious royal parks, such as Hyde Park.

The mayor’s office has so far been unable to comment.

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