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Despite significant expansion of the cycle hire scheme, use is down by 1.1m journeys on last year

Boris bike rentals in London appear to have substantially dropped since the price of a hire was doubled at the start of last year.

Despite large scale expansion of the scheme to the east, west and south west of London, users have used the bikes less in 2013-14 than in the previous year.

The South West expansion alone brought an additional 2,000 bikes to London, but the number of journeys was down from 9,302,704 in 2012-13 to 8,160,398.

The figures are complicated to unravel however, as 2012 benefitted from Olympic visitors to the capital (who appeared to use the bikes an additional 70 per cent), whereas a wet spring in 2013 was combined with a doubling of the price per day to £2. Annual membership rose from £45 to £90.

Total number of hires of the Barclays Cycle Hire Scheme, by day, month and year, since the launch on 30 July 2010 can be found here.

1.1m fewer rides, given the expansion, suggests a significant number of people who previously made use of the scheme choosing other modes of transport.

The scheme’s administration has also published a satisfaction and usage survey of its users.

When asked if users could identify one significant change for the better or worse, the charge increase was mentioned as the main change for the worse.

More docking stations and spaces within them, and the health benefits were mentioned as the main changes for the better.

One user said: “Hopefully car drivers will get used to cyclists. However, cyclists need to obey the rules of the road properly. I've become fitter and feel healthier. I can take the stairs two at a time these days.”

Another added: “I've been able to reach some meetings much more quickly and spent less time travelling, often the bike is faster than taxi, tube or bus.”

But it wasn’t all positive. Another said:  “More bad/inexperienced cyclists on the bikes is sometimes worrying,” while another added: “I'm disappointed that the cost of my annual membership has doubled. Price has doubled, but to my perception, no increase in benefits or service."

The Boriswatch website makes the case that the decrease in usage is directly linked to the price increase. It points out that use was 33 per cent up on the corresponding period in the previous year (immediately before the price change). The month following, use was still up on the year before, but only at 8 per cent. After that it continues to drop, reaching a low point of -39 per cent in the wet March of 2013-14.

We already reported at the end of last year how despite the better weather last summer and autumn, usage of Boris bikes dropped substantially in the six months to November 2013 compared to the same period of the previous year,.

Boris bikes were used almost a million fewer times in the period July-November 2013 compared to the same months in 2012 with  5,635,054 hires in 2012 and 4,606,565 in 2013 and, an 18 percent drop. Usage was down 5 percent in June and almost held steady in July, but was down 21-31 percent for the following four months.

Users felt that the service was “too expensive” and complained of docking stations not working, bikes not being available, and not being fixed quickly enough.

On the other hand, we recently reported how a London lettings agency said that London’s Barclays Cycle Hire Scheme is transforming the residential rental market in areas previously viewed as off-limits by prospective tenants due to their distance from the tube and other public transport – and that streets that have a docking station are in particularly high demand.

According to Benham & Reeves Residential Lettings, in some places what would have been a half-hour walk to the nearest Underground station has been slashed to five minutes by Boris Bike, making such areas attractive to renters looking for cheaper places to rent.

After an unpromising start, having to be bribed by her parents to learn to ride without stabilisers, Sarah became rather keener on cycling in her university years, and was eventually persuaded to upgrade to proper road cycling by the prospect of a shiny red Italian bike, which she promptly destroyed by trapping a pair of knickers in the rear derailleur. Sarah writes about about cycling every weekend on road.cc.

28 comments

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cyclingdave70 [33 posts] 2 years ago
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People have brought their own bikes and are using them?

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SB76 [102 posts] 2 years ago
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Or, the awful weather in January and February has had an effect??? Of course neither of these are sufficiently doom mongering

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Paul M [360 posts] 2 years ago
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cyclingdave70 wrote:

People have brought their own bikes and are using them?

That is probably true - when the new double-decker racks were installed on the forecourt at Waterloo Station, initially they were largely empty. Now they fill beyond capacity and my impression is that many are not used on a daily basis, but kept there for less frequent use by commuters. I should imagine a similar trend will occur at Paddington where there was recently a large increase in parking capacity.

Commuters in particular might be turning away from the hire bikes because of the uncertainty of finding a bike in the morning, or a space to doc it in the evening. While Serco works hard at moving bikes around to maintain enough liquidity, I suspect some people are still disappointed and so have given up.

I don't imagine the doubling of the annual subscription has helped but I doubt that is a major factor. The hire bike demographic is predominantly middle-aged male professionals and they can well afford £80 or so a year, in fact that is arguably a bargain - I spend more than that every year just maintaining my Brompton (although to be fair to Brompton that is because it is well used and has to deal with a pretty hostile road environment of potholes, debris and sand/grit on the roads between my rural home and station).

Weather may have been a factor in 2012/13, with such a frightful wet winter. Rainfall in the South East was up by over 50% on average, leading to widespread flooding, and in places the rainfall was twice the average as my home weather station can attest. While the image of the hire bike rider in a suit is no longer really accurate, many users must have been put off cycling in the rain and in particular in the filthy spray kicked up by all the trucks and taxis. Certainly my anecdotal impression has been that since the weather started to look up in late March, cyclists of all shapes and sizes have emerged on to London streets like Wordsworth's daffodils. If we get another good summer and a drier winter than last year, we may see the numbers tick up again.

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KiwiMike [1237 posts] 2 years ago
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Another factor may be that having tried it once or twice, the appaling state of London's roads, intersections, driver attitudes and behaviour means people say 'sod this for a lark'. I'd love to see the numbers on 'once or twice' hires. I bet it's a very large percentage. The churn ratio must be very high back to public transport.

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workhard [397 posts] 2 years ago
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For me the success of the scheme was such that on my visits to London I couldn't find a bike. So I bought a Brompton and bring that up on the train with me and have only used a Boris Bike twice in the last 18 months.

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Roberj4 [221 posts] 2 years ago
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Also over the last 12 months have highlighted the increasing and tragic deaths of London cyclists (normal commuter) will put people off. I was in Central London last weekend with my family visiting popular tourist spots and didn't see hardly anyone on a Boris bike but maybe for a BH weekend this may be expected. I wonder if the scheme targets tourists?

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kie7077 [887 posts] 2 years ago
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Roberj4 wrote:

Also over the last 12 months have highlighted the increasing and tragic deaths of London cyclists (normal commuter) will put people off. I was in Central London last weekend with my family visiting popular tourist spots and didn't see hardly anyone on a Boris bike but maybe for a BH weekend this may be expected. I wonder if the scheme targets tourists?

Why is it that approx' 12 cyclists deaths per year gets proportionately so much more coverage than pollutions deaths at 4300.

All these people saying they won't cycle because of the danger, but how many of them make any attempt to mitigate the risk of lung disease?

Google: 2 times as many cycle death hits
BBC: 10 times as many cycle death hits
Guardian: roughly equal hits

The biggest irony being that if we all cycled then both pollution and cyclist deaths would fall (drastically per mile cycled that is)

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Zermattjohn [215 posts] 2 years ago
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jacknorell [974 posts] 2 years ago
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kie7077 wrote:

Why is it that approx' 12 cyclists deaths per year gets proportionately so much more coverage than pollutions deaths at 4300.

Easy, squished and bloodied body on the ground is a lot more dramatic than some poor sod dying quietly in a hospital from respiratory failure...

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Neil753 [447 posts] 2 years ago
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It's a combination of factors.

The recent deaths, the increase in fees, the uncertainty of getting hold of a bike, the (rather limited) 30 minute limit, the potholes, the wider choice of fairly decent folding bikes, and perhaps the association with Barclays (which some would say is becoming increasingly toxic).

But even if someone tries out a Boris bike once, and then buys themselves a bike of their own, that must be a good thing. And of course, when pedestrians and drivers see people on Boris bikes, riding in "normal" clothes, it helps reaffirm in their mind that this is a safe activity for ordinary people.

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tarquin_foxglove [139 posts] 2 years ago
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Tangential questions, answers greatly received:

I arrive in Paddington at 6pm-ish on Tuesday & want to go to KX.

1. It's tube strike day, so the chances of a Boris bike being available are?

2. I've got a hand-luggage sized bag with me, would that fit in the rack on the front or could a couple of bungee cords convert the rear mudguard to a make-do rack? They look quite sturdy:
http://standardblog.typepad.com/.a/6a0167641875cd970b0163034bb0b5970d-pi

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Some Fella [890 posts] 2 years ago
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Re - the doubling of the fee
The expression 'killing the goose that lays the golden egg' springs to mind.
Stupid, greedy short term gain has come back to bite them on the arse. Idiots.
I would get on my Lefty soapbox and blame the evils of capitalism but even a rampant capitalist wouldnt be stupid enough to price their customers out of the market.

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Flying Scot [921 posts] 2 years ago
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I never realised it was so cheap, as the chap above said, the annual price is less than a years maintenance on most bikes if done in a shop, plus no need to bother about security.

I wonder if the rest of the UK subsidises this!?

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FluffyKittenofT... [1350 posts] 2 years ago
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jacknorell wrote:
kie7077 wrote:

Why is it that approx' 12 cyclists deaths per year gets proportionately so much more coverage than pollutions deaths at 4300.

Easy, squished and bloodied body on the ground is a lot more dramatic than some poor sod dying quietly in a hospital from respiratory failure...

Plus they are different kinds of risks.

There's no way an individual can avoid the pollution, its a collective problem, and one mostly that involves doing harm to others not yourself. An individual can avoid the risk of a bike accident by not cycling. Not driving doesn't stop you having to breath in the pollution produced by others, so any one individual might as well carry on driving.

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kie7077 [887 posts] 2 years ago
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FluffyKittenofTindalos wrote:
jacknorell wrote:
kie7077 wrote:

Why is it that approx' 12 cyclists deaths per year gets proportionately so much more coverage than pollutions deaths at 4300.

Easy, squished and bloodied body on the ground is a lot more dramatic than some poor sod dying quietly in a hospital from respiratory failure...

Plus they are different kinds of risks.

There's no way an individual can avoid the pollution, its a collective problem, and one mostly that involves doing harm to others not yourself. An individual can avoid the risk of a bike accident by not cycling. Not driving doesn't stop you having to breath in the pollution produced by others, so any one individual might as well carry on driving.

Actually you could halve the pollution you breath in by getting a train instead, there is typically far more pollution at main roads and junctions where people sit waiting for lights to change.
See: Pollution map (pollution is unusually low at the time of this post / not rush hour)

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allez neg [497 posts] 2 years ago
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I'm surprised Barclays don't offer a discount to account holders for bike hire.

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rogermerriman [91 posts] 2 years ago
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Or even just ped deaths from traffic they even more than bikes get a raw deal.

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argotittilius [23 posts] 2 years ago
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Hired one for a trip from Waterloo over the river to Strand (5 mins) as the trains wouldn't let me bring a proper bike with me. Damned thing took me 15 minutes to get out of the dock.
And the gearing is a pig, not low enough/too low to spin and get some speed, and yet not really high enough to comfortably get out the saddle. But I guess they're not exactly designed for racing.

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chaos [23 posts] 2 years ago
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I loved the scheme when it started, but I cannot stand the stress of trying to get rid of a bike in Central London. I have believe certain boroughs even restrict the timings when docking stations can be emptied or topped-up which does not help.
We used to have 4 keys in our household to accommodate visitors; however, the 100% price hike was offensive and other irritations have inspired us to reduce to one key.
As for Barclays pulling out, I have voted with my feet and cancelled the 2 accounts I had with them.

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goggy [153 posts] 2 years ago
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Barclays don't even often any discounts to staff members ... although they do provide excellent cycle facilities at their main buildings.

I guess they do one thing right  41

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matthewn5 [842 posts] 2 years ago
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I live in London and used to have a £45 annual membership when it was first introduced. I didn't use the bikes often, but enjoyed them when I did. So did the other half.

Then the price doubled to £90/year and we both gave it a miss. Talk about taking the p*ss with the price increase! And Barclays never even gave all the money they'd promised to support the system, while having their name on thousands of bikes.

How about a per-bike per-year charge for sponsorship? At least we might see some variety rather than sickly blue everywhere.

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Neil753 [447 posts] 2 years ago
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@drmatthewhardy.
With an average public subsidy of £3.80 per day per bike, and with an uncertain future with regards to sponsorship, things are looking tricky. But it's easy to reduce the deficit.

If it were me, I'd charge an annual registration fee of ten quid for all users, replace the free half hour with a 50p charge for the first hour (the half hour limit has always been silly), but credit a user with a quid if they take a bike from a docking station that's more than half full and end their journey at a docking station that's less than half full (effectively allowing homeless, but pre-approved, people to earn a small amount of cash and eliminate the costly transfer of bikes via serco staff).

There's lots of ways to make the scheme work (especially on the sponsorship side, once the Barclays deal ends next year). All Boris has to do is buy me a pint and I'll give him a list  3

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noether [96 posts] 2 years ago
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I made use of such a bike scheme when visiting Tel Aviv as a tourist last year. I hardly knew my way around, but docking stations kept popping up when I needed transport. Devising such modes of transport is devilishly complicated and many years of experience with lots of feedback are needed to get the mix right.

The first priority is to get people accepting and using them, the rest is optimization. Doubling fees does not even get the scheme past the first priority! Regarding the subsidy, only a holistic approach comparing the funding of all means of transport AND the collateral damage/ benefit they cause/ bring puts things in the proper perspective: bike schemes work and save money, even if 100% subsidized (which I oppose to avoid vandalism).

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A V Lowe [592 posts] 2 years ago
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There are now Brompton Docks open and operating at Exeter, Bristol, Oxford, and Ealing Broadway - go online and book - casual membership £1/year daily hire £5 or regular user £20 and £2.50.

Bromptons have been on hire in London for commuters since 2009 - 1 year before Boris Bikes, and quietly delivering what the BCH pricing structure and operating system fail to do The BCH system is not designed for cycling between station and work but the Abellio Bike&Go - now at 15 stations in Essex is the way to deliver bikes with rail commuting, and can be set up as long as you have a staffed ticket window and bike parking outside, with as many bikes as required for the demand.

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A V Lowe [592 posts] 2 years ago
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There are now Brompton Docks open and operating at Exeter, Bristol, Oxford, and Ealing Broadway - go online and book - casual membership £1/year daily hire £5 or regular user £20 and £2.50.

Bromptons have been on hire in London for commuters since 2009 - 1 year before Boris Bikes, and quietly delivering what the BCH pricing structure and operating system fail to do The BCH system is not designed for cycling between station and work but the Abellio Bike&Go - now at 15 stations in Essex is the way to deliver bikes with rail commuting, and can be set up as long as you have a staffed ticket window and bike parking outside, with as many bikes as required for the demand.

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A V Lowe [592 posts] 2 years ago
0 likes

There are now Brompton Docks open and operating at Exeter, Bristol, Oxford, and Ealing Broadway - go online and book - casual membership £1/year daily hire £5 or regular user £20 and £2.50.

Bromptons have been on hire in London for commuters since 2009 - 1 year before Boris Bikes, and quietly delivering what the BCH pricing structure and operating system fail to do The BCH system is not designed for cycling between station and work but the Abellio Bike&Go - now at 15 stations in Essex is the way to deliver bikes with rail commuting, and can be set up as long as you have a staffed ticket window and bike parking outside, with as many bikes as required for the demand.

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A V Lowe [592 posts] 2 years ago
0 likes

There are now Brompton Docks open and operating at Exeter, Bristol, Oxford, and Ealing Broadway - go online and book - casual membership £1/year daily hire £5 or regular user £20 and £2.50.

Bromptons have been on hire in London for commuters since 2009 - 1 year before Boris Bikes, and quietly delivering what the BCH pricing structure and operating system fail to do The BCH system is not designed for cycling between station and work but the Abellio Bike&Go - now at 15 stations in Essex is the way to deliver bikes with rail commuting, and can be set up as long as you have a staffed ticket window and bike parking outside, with as many bikes as required for the demand.

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jollygoodvelo [1539 posts] 2 years ago
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I have to say that I absolutely love the concept, I don't mind the 23kg under-geared behemoths, use them reasonably frequently, and have never, ever had trouble finding a bike to hire or finding a place to dock it back in - because I have an app for that.

But most of the times I use one are single-use in the 24 hours, and more often than not when I need to go somewhere after work but can't be bothered with the tube/buses in rush hour. £2 is a bit steep for that, frankly - although it still makes a big loss.

Would they rather have 3m journeys at £2, or 5m journeys at £1 - obviously the former, notwithstanding that the lower usage reduces maintenance etc.