Charges announced for London Cycle Hire Scheme – it's free for first 30 mins

TfL and Boris stress how far you can cycle in half an hour as hire bike charges unveiled

by Tony Farrelly   December 11, 2009  

London Cycle Hire bikes

Transport for London (TfL) has announced that London's Cycle Hire scheme, which is due to launch next summer, will be free for the first half an hour of use. However users will have to pay a daily, weekly, or annual access fee first before throwing a leg over one of the 6,000 new hire bikes. The access fee is £1 for a day, £5 for a week, or £45 for an annual membership.

According to TfL the charging structure means that:

  • A daily user could use a hire bicycle for multiple trips of under 30 minutes in one day for £1;
  • A weekly user could use the cycle hire scheme for the equivalent of just 71p a day;
  • Annual members will pay as little as 12p a day to have access to a hire bicycle.

After the first free half hour of rental, the London Cycle Hire scheme will cost £1 for a journey of between 30 minutes and one hour, £4 for up to 90 minutes, and £6 for up to two hours. The hire charges then increase incrementally up to a maximum hire period of 24 hours which carrries a £50 charge.

You certainly wouldn't want to be late returning a bike as that carries a £150 excess charge, which also applies if your access charge runs out while you are using one of the hire bikes. Non-members wishing to hire a bike without first paying the access charge will need to agree to a pre-authorisation charge of £150 and if a bike is lost or damaged during the hire period users will face a bill of £300. Ouch!

TfL says their charging structure has been designed to ensure as many people as possible can use the scheme, as very few journeys in Central London take more than 30 minutes.

Example journeys cited from TfL's cycling Journey Planner include:
The Regent’s Park to Notting Hill Gate, 25 minutes
London Bridge to Hyde Park, 27 minutes
Tower Hill to Bond Street, 23 minutes

The Mayor of London, Boris Johnson, was also keen to stress just how far you can get on a bike in half an hour: “Our cycle hire scheme is set to be one of the exciting, affordable and energising ways to get around town. It is amazing how far your bike can take you in 30 minutes if you put in a bit of pedal power; and to be able to do so free of charge on one of our fantastic new bikes is simply sensational value for money.”

Details of the charging policy for the new scheme got a generally positive reaction from the CTC's Policy Coordinator Chris Peck although he was critical of TfL's failure to make the scheme compatible with the Oyster Card:
CTC Policy Coordinator Chris Peck said: “This scheme will encourage thousands more people to cycle in London and more cycling generally means lower risks of injury for everyone. There are already over half a million trips by bike every day in London, so the capital’s roads should be able to cope with the extra 40,000, but roads in central London do need to be calmer and more pleasant to cycle on.
 
“I’ve ridden one of the bikes, they are comfortable, well-designed and look like they will last. It is also good to see the scheme will free for the first half an hour, but the annual membership cost of £45 appears steep when the equivalent in Paris is only 30 Euros.
 
“We have been assured by TfL that cyclists using the scheme won’t be required to wear a helmet, CTC campaigns to allow people to choose whether or not to wear a helmet and believes that a rule on helmets would stop many people using the bikes on the spur of the moment.  
 
CTC cannot understand why TfL has not made the scheme compatible with the Oyster card. We would like to see docking stations at key areas such as railway stations and believe the demand could be catered for if it is carefully managed.”

That lack of Oyster card compatibility and the omission of docking stations from major railway stations are, say critics of the scheme, signs that London's Cycle Hire Scheme is primarily for tourists and not for Londoners. We will find out whether they are right next summer.