I was on holiday in Rome last week, just in time for the launch of their new bike-sharing scheme, by mayor Gianni Alemanno.
Roma Bike has started small, with just 200 bikes dotted around the centre as part of a 6-month initial experiment. It will be expanded to 20,000 bikes, if successful. The scheme will not cost the city council, and has instead been sponsored by Cemusa - a street furniture company, apparently.
London Mayor Boris Johnson also wants any London scheme to be privately funded. He says that Transport for London is still working out the feasibility of a Central London bike hire scheme. In answer to a question from Nicky Gavron on 18 June (Question 1172, on page 59), he said:
"TfL is working with the Clear Zones Partnership (comprising the London Borough of Camden, City of Westminster and the City of London) and the Royal Parks on the feasibility of a Central London bike hire scheme. Further work is underway to consider a range of options for planning and financing this scheme so as to ensure value for money for the taxpayer. A definitive date for the introduction of any scheme is dependent on the outcome of this work."
As promised during his election campaign, Mayor Boris yesterday announced a consultation exercise that will probably end up scrapping the western extension of the congestion charge - which was introduced by former mayor Livingstone in Feb 2007. The consultation will start in September, and the western extension could be dropped by the end of 2009.
Meanwhile, formal consultation on Greater Manchester's proposed congestion charge scheme starts on Monday 7th - and runs through to 10 October. The Association of Greater Manchester Authorities (AGMA) will decide later this month, whether to hold a public referendum. Manchester leader, Sir Richard Leese, now says a referendum is the most likely way forward.
What happens if Greater Manchester votes "no"? The Government has promised £1.5 billion of cash from the Transport Innovation Fund, for public transport improvements - part of the overall £2.8 billion package - but only if the charge is introduced in 2013. Ruth Kelly has got some tricky decisions ahead, if the vote goes the wrong way...