Yellow bike plague being tackled on the streets of Wandsworth

Published: Friday 4th August 17

The company that’s flooded London with a rash of yellow rental bikes without any warning might be scratching their heads and asking themselves why so many have vanished from the streets of Wandsworth.

The answer is that dozens have been impounded by the council for cluttering pavements and causing obstructions.

Since they first started appearing last month, the council has confiscated 130 of the yellow oBIKES for blocking pavements.

Dozens of oBIkes have been impounded

The distinctive grey and yellow bicycles have arrived as a direct competitor to the Mayor’s cycle hire scheme – with the difference being that oBIKES don’t use docking stations. Instead users simply leave them wherever they please with other hirers tracking them down via an app.

But this means that town centres shopping areas, the pavements outside tube and rail stations and other busy locations have seen an influx of abandoned bikes.

Masses have been found outside Clapham Junction station where they have blocked pavements and caused problems for pedestrians but also especially for people in wheelchairs and parents with buggies.

The council has been busy clearing these obstructions and have told the company behind the scheme that they need to re-think the way their business operates.

Transport spokesman Jonathan Cook said: “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.

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

“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.”

• Wandsworth is becoming the cycling capital of London after scoring the biggest increase in pedal power in the whole of England, according to figures recently published by the Department for Transport (DfT).

The proportion of local people who cycle at least once a month went from 18.2 per cent in 2013/14, to 30.7 per cent in 2014/15 - a rise of 12.5 percentage points.

Only two other parts of London made it into the top ten for year-on-year increases – City of London with a 9.8 per cent rise and Croydon with an increase of 5.9 per cent.

Wandsworth’s sharp rise brings its overall cycling rate up to fifth in the country, behind the university towns of Cambridge (58), Oxford (43.2) and York (34.2), as well as neighbouring Richmond (33.1).

According to the DfT report, the proportion of regular cyclists in Wandsworth is now double the average for England which stands at 14.7 per cent.

The country-wide statistics also show Wandsworth residents are keen walkers, with the percentage of adults walking at least five times a week standing at 64.2 per cent, the ninth highest in England.

For more information on how Wandsworth is promoting safe two-wheeled transport read the council’s cycling strategy online.  

 View comments on this article

Comments on this news item have been closed.

If you wish to complain about a comment, contact us at

Recent comments

Having worked on & studied public bike hire since 1996 I'd highlight the need for councils or central government to get their act together on regulation of this and other commercial use of the roads. Wandsworth has I believe made a start with GRID a package to manage use of kerbside space for loading & unloading which freight operators can use to book for deliveries The vacuum of having no public bikes was filled here by an operator leaping in with no agreement or concession. Models for this do exist & Scotland's public bike hire operations have to consider Section 97 of the Roads Scotland Act 1984 which has a greater clarity than English RTA 1988. Bikeplus has brought the responsible operators together & promotes best contract templates
Dave Holladay

4 January 2018

If the Council cleared all the abandoned bikes parked on bike stands, people wouldn't leave them anywhere. I cannot find where to suggest on the website that Wandsworth Council tag, then remove bikes that are permanently locked in stands, especially around tube stations. Wandsworth isn't the only Council plagued by abandoned bikes, it's frustrating trying to find a stand when they are trying to promote cycling across London.

1 October 2017

There is an abandoned bicycle with no saddle tied up to a lamp post between No 39 and 41 Broxash Road. It has been there for 6 weeks. Is it possible for the council to remove it? Thank you

5 September 2017

It's a pity that what should have been a good scheme has come to this; might I suggest that WBC work with the company to improve it, rather than publicise the negative aspects? After all, WBC has always declared itself keen to promote non-polluting transport.
susan lofthouse

10 August 2017

So the "cycle friendly" council is encouraging me to jump back in my car? The council should work with these companies instead of against, a dramatic removal of all o-bikes just encourages less cycling. If the council had gotten more Boris bike stations in the area we might have not even needed another scheme! What about the new zip cars now cluttering our parking spaces?

9 August 2017

To whom it may concern. If these bike are not going back to the original owners I would like to negotiate a deal to purchase confiscated items. Yours faithfully Leslie Blackburn.
Leslie Blackburn

8 August 2017

Thank you Wandsworth. I'm a cyclist and use the Santander scheme so very pro cycling and making it accessible but it must consider other users particularly those with accessibility requirements and must be done in conjunction with local councils. Wholly supportive of this move.

7 August 2017

Well done to the Council. Glad to see them taking a stand. I'm all for bike schemes like this, but they need to be properly managed like the Boris Bikes, rather than cowboy companies. I have already had to walk in the road thanks to one of these being parked diagonally across the pavement. Totally irresponsible. Have the bikes been safety tested I wonder?
Jasper Scudamore

7 August 2017

The car-loving brigade hogging the drives and making life difficult for those who choose not to drive as always.

7 August 2017

These bikes could be a real benefit to the borough, but they can't be allowed to impede the pavements, particularly for wheelchair users and buggies. The company should be asked to challenge its users to park sensibly and make a penalty charge for offenders. That would quickly stop users from just dumping them without thought. The problem comes when other people vandalise them or kick them over. There's very little the company or council can do about that. perhaps locking points would work? The company would need to add a chain to each bike and the council some locking points?

7 August 2017

I lived no where near a Boris Bike docking station so I was excited about the new scheme. The actions of the council reeks of cronyism and them eliminating the competition. I also think the tone of the council's article is well wide of how the public will view this.

7 August 2017

Sad- thought this was a brilliant initiative.

6 August 2017

Work with the company to solve the problem instead of confiscating bikes please. It is not enough to kick the ball back to the company and ask them to solve the "problem". There are too many cars on our roads and streets. Boris bikes do not have good coverage in this borough and the option to pick up a bike locally would increase the number of people who use bikes rather than cars. This can only be a good thing. You work for us - be part of the solution not again part of the problem.
Julie Estelle

6 August 2017

Only in Britain will someone give themselves a pat on the back for A) ruining a promising new cycle hire scheme and B) being a bicycle-prominent town, at the same time in the same article...

6 August 2017

"blocked pavements and caused problems for pedestrians but also especially for people in wheelchairs and parents with buggies" - this is a problem everywhere, but much more frequently caused by cars and vans than bikes. Where are the photos of private motor vehicles being impounded en masse for being parked half on the pavement, at dropped kerbs, or in the middle of bike lanes? "blocking parking spaces" - oh heavens, no! Ever consider 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.

5 August 2017

A 'rash'? A 'plague'?? Why not let us judge for ourselves how much of an issue this is by showing us the 'problem' as it actually appears? Instead we have a picture of them all stuffed together artificially in one place. What's the matter - are you afraid we might not agree with you? As others have said, if it is a genuine problem, then look for a solution. Just confiscating them seems excessive - and possibly not even legal. If I leave my (own) cycle in a public place, have you the right to confiscate that too? Oh, and would Councillor Cook like to tell us exactly how many complaints have been received, and over what period - or perhaps that wouldn't be as impressive as using silly emotive terms like "a flood"?
Osmund Bullock

5 August 2017

How about removing some of the plague of 2.56 MILLION cars parked in London to make space for some bikes? (Source:

5 August 2017

typical reaction from the council... if it isn't many money for their crony friends the competition will be blocked and put out of business.

4 August 2017


4 August 2017

This is no different to the new zip car scheme Wandsworth were promoting last week, it's a great ideas as long as users leave the bikes sensibly . Shame on Wandsworth not helping this company rather than hindering them, typical public sector attitudes

4 August 2017

Are they free to ride ????
Liz D

4 August 2017

Well done for removing clutter which affects other users of public space and their safety and convenience. This company is seeking to make money without having an approved or sensible business plan
steve bassnett

4 August 2017

A plague? Really? I think oBike's are a great idea and Wandsworth should be seeking a compromise with the company rather than taking such drastic action as basically breaking their business. It would be easy to create a "report obstruction" facility so that the person who last used a particular bike would get fined or lose their deposit. You'd soon see how quickly people started parking them responsibly. Are you really annoyed at the "obstructions" or because they were silly enough not to consult first? Come on Wandsworth; anything that gets people cycling rather than using motorized transport is a good thing. Please try and find a more creative solution to the problem.

4 August 2017

Never seen these bikes - I will look out for them.
Peter Simmons

4 August 2017

Great work council. Five or six of these eyesores were dumped right outside of my front door. Glad they've been confiscated.
Spencer James

4 August 2017

Shame the council has to take such a confrontational approach to an innovative new idea. No Boris bikes in Clapham/Balham/Tooting so Obikes are an ideal alternative

4 August 2017