Zipcars could be left anywhere in Wandsworth (but not bikes!)

3 mins read

Author: Cyril Richert

Zipcar have recently launched an additional service in all of Wandsworth, along with parts of Merton, Sutton and south Lambeth, called Zipcar Flex. This service allows Zipcar members to make one-way journeys, rather than having to pick up and return a car from/to a dedicated car club parking bay. The Flex vehicles are permitted to park anywhere a resident can, including resident-only and shared-use bays, i.e. there are no dedicated bays.

In a recent email, Andy Flood, Principal Transport Planner for Wandsworth and Richmond said:

We are expecting there to be no more than 150 or so of these Flex vehicles parked across the borough on any day, and if they are parked in your street it is likely to be because someone on your street has used the service (in the same way that any other car parked on your street is likely to have been used by someone in the area). […] Over time it is expected to help reduce car ownership levels, which in turn will mean more parking space being available for people who want to continue owning a car themselves, including resident permit holders.”

The email is using repetitive wishful wording such as: “it is expected“, “likely“…etc. Already the number of “no more than 150 or so of these Flex vehicles parked across the borough” is contradicted by the Council’s press release this summer, which said: “There are initially 300 ‘floating’ cars in use across the ‘Zipzone’ with more likely to be introduced as new members subscribe.

In theory it looks like a good idea. In practice, it seems to have been implemented without any regulation and forward thinking.

A local resident said:

“A Zipcar has been parked for several days outside my house, SW11, which falls under parking zone C2. I thought this unusual and reported it to Zipcar. Their response was that Zipcars can now be left in residents’ bays indefinitely in a number of South London boroughs, i.e. including Wandsworth. This seems unfair to residents, who to my knowledge have never been consulted about this consequent reduction in the bays available for residents, who pay for their parking permits. In other words, if I’ve understood correctly, someone who has no connection whatsoever with Wandsworth can leave a Zipcar indefinitely in a residents’ bay.”

Zipcar Flex are allowed almost anywhere within the Zipzone – just make sure the bays or spaces are one of the following: Permit Holders Only, Permit Holders or Pay & Display and On street – No restrictions (no yellow lines, red routes).

f you see this sign, you’re okay to park your Zipcar.

There is currently no way to report a car to Zipcar and have them removed it (although apparently the Council can request that). Therefore, in addition to adding to the parking constraint in some areas, it could also cause issues in case of temporary parking restriction (construction work, removal work… etc).

On the other hand, Wandsworth Council is confiscating bikes that are not locked on dedicated locking station

Image from

Following a series of complaint from residents (and several articles in the Evening Standard, City A.M. or Wandsworth Council decided to confiscate 130 new rental bikes from the Singapore-based stationless bicycle-sharing system oBike. They were introduced in July as a competitor to the Mayor’s cycle scheme, but they do not use docking stations and can be left anywhere. The GPS-tracked bikes are unlocked by scanning a code on the bike via an app. Users simply leave them wherever they want with other hirers tracking them down via an app, in a similar way to Zipcar Flex.

The bike company has been accused of littering London’s streets with abandoned cycles. On Twitter you can find dozen of pictures posted by residents complaining about the obikes cluttering cities and dumped anywhere. On Wikipedia, you can read that several cities worldwide such as Melbourne in Australia, Amsterdam in Netherlands, Beijing in China decided to ban them from public areas.

A press release from the Council said:

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

But others are highlighting that there seem to be a double standard here:

And this time, Councillor Cook is not proudly promoting the scheme as he said that “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”. Where was the proper consultation on Zipcar Flex?

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CJI editor and Clapham Junction Action Group co-founder and coordinator since 2008, Cyril has lived in Clapham Junction since 2001.
He is also funder and CEO of Habilis-Digital Ltd, a digital agency creating and managing websites and Internet solutions.


  1. Why is it assumed that car-owners have an automatic right to occupy public space (street parking) that actually belongs to all of us? Their parking permits in no way compensate for the loss of the land occupied by stationary vehicles that could be put to other use eg. bus and cycle lanes, cycle parking (could help solve the problem of the obikes), or communal green space. Non-car-owners have been discriminated against for too long, and I applaud Wandsworth Council for attempting to redress the balance. They should go further and faster, in my opinion. Maybe some of the complainers should try out a Zipcar Flex. We did so 15 years ago, and realised we actually had no need to own a car. I sold mine and honestly haven’t missed it on a single occasion since.

    • Why are you assuming that complainers are not using Zipcars or other car sharing systems? And why do you assume that they have a car?

      We highlight the double standard here: Cllr Cook applauds the right of Zipcar to park anywhere, but criticises the same for bikes… Without talking about car owners, maybe you wouldn’t be pleased to have a Zipcar dumped in front of your doorstep for days/weeks, where it may become difficult to manoeuvre with pushchairs or other deliveries and especially without any possibility to ask the owner the move it?

      Regulating Zipcars does not prevent Wandsworth Council to create much more cycle parking; then oBikes could have only the right to park there (but it means that money-tight Wandsworth will have to invest a bit… that could be achieved with all CIL/funding received from developments they approve)? In the same time, both Zipcar and oBike could create an option on their app for people to ask to move their cars/bikes within 24 hours?

  2. I think it’s safe to assume that the “local resident” quoted – who complains that it is “unfair to residents who pay their parking permit” – is a car-owner and not a Zipcar member.
    I’ve already said I’m a member, so why do you think I would not be pleased to have a Zipcar parked outside my house (or, as you prefer to put it, “dumped in front of my doorstep”)?
    Zipcars are only an “obstruction” to entitled local residents, like the one you quote, who thinks his permit gives him the right to park his private car outside his house, and his Zipcar-member neighbour (ie. me) should have to take a hike when he wants to use a club car. Since you are highlighting “double standards”, perhaps you could consider your own here.
    Statistics on use of car club cars show that they are in significantly greater use than privately-owned vehicles, and highly unlikely to sit stationary in the same spot for weeks. If that happens, the Zipcar business model will fail. Club cars are therefore a much more efficient use of road space than private cars, and that’s why the council are supporting them (bravo WBC!)
    The oBike issue is a separate one, because these are left in places, like pavements, where they ARE an obstruction. Though generally pro-cycling, I personally can’t see this particular model working, and think the Boris bikes make more sense.

    • Dear AP,
      In any case, we need to argue on the general case, not for a specific individual (and when I said “you”, it is not you personally, but any individual).
      Also, I don’t need an electric car to see the benefits of such vehicles (BTW, the car sharing system for Paris is all electric cars in dedicated bays, such as the Santander cycles), so the same for Zipcars and bikes.
      In addition it is worth noting that a resident parking permit costs £146 and gives the right to park within the zone. You pay also for visitor parking permit but… Zipcar Flex are exempted.
      Last but not least, we are only discussing Zipcar Flex (and I see perfectly the advantage of that system, that makes possible one-way trips, which was actually the downside highlighted in the 2011 article I linked with above), not other car sharing systems and the double standard relate to the absence of consultation.

      • You have taken an extremely biased view of this issue and refuse to acknowledge that there is another side. Apparently, you cannot understand that some local residents choose to use Zipcars and feel they have equal right to park them outside their own homes as their car-owning neighbours. Zipcar Flex are exempt from the permit charge, because car club membership has been demonstrated to reduce car ownership, and WBC see this as in the public good. Not everything needs to be consulted on. We elect our councillors to take decisions for our collective good – that’s local democracy.

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