Barclays Cycle Hire Scheme crashes as it's opened to non-members

TfL left red-faced as more than one quarter of docking station terminals crash on scheme's big day

by Simon_MacMichael   December 3, 2010  

Barclays Cycle Hire Scheme bikes on hire station © Simon MacMichael.jpg

The much-vaunted opening of London’s Barclays Cycle Hire Scheme to casual users from 10 o’clock this morning descended into chaos as terminals at more than a quarter of the city’s docking stations crashed, meaning they needed to be manually rebooted.

In all, some 100 docking stations crashed, according to the London at Large blog on the Evening Standard's website, preventing would-be casual users as well as many of the scheme’s 108,000 members from using the hire bikes.

The blog post said that following urgent talks with Transport for London (TfL), scheme operator Serco, which also runs the Docklands Light Railway, had to send engineers to each docking station affected to resolve the problem.

Ross Lydal, Chief News Correspondent at the Evening Standard who wrote the blog post and is himself a user of the scheme, had earlier tweeted; “#TfL says 100 #Borisbike docking stations crashed at launch of casual use. Now down to 68 broken as #Serco gets b*llocking.”

His report added that by 1.30pm, one in ten of the 352 docking stations were still out of operation, and he also highlighted that there had been a bad omen yesterday when Kulveer Ranger, Mayor Boris Johnson’s Transport Advisor, had encountered problems when trying to show journalists at a press conference in Covent Garden how to release a bike by using a credit card at the terminal.

By 5pm the number of malfunctioning terminals was down to one, a TfL spokesperson told road.cc and Serco engineers, were working on that to get it back online as quickly as possible.

The Evening Standard reported a TfL spokesman as saying: “Our operator Serco has informed us that, due to a system error this morning, some Barclays Cycle Hire docking stations are not releasing cycle hire bikes to auto renew members and casual user customers, however annual members and members with a valid access period have still been able to access bikes.

“We would like to apologise to any customers that have experienced problems however the majority of casual users around London should still have been able to access the scheme today and we are pressing Serco engineers to resolve this as quickly as possible. They are on the streets now fixing affected stations.”

The problems with the expansion of the scheme to non-members this morning contrast sharply with comments made by London’s Mayor in a press release issued  ahead of the 10am launch.

“Our Barclays Cycle Hire bikes have already become a defining part of the London street scene. Now those who have only watched enviously from the sidelines can join the cycle revolution at the swipe of a card."

In some respects the extreme winter weather made today's opening up of the system a lot less fraught than it might have been with so many terminals crashing. Sources at TfL say that the weather has massively reduced hire bike traffic by as much as 50 per over the last few day with many people unable to get to London, and the weather there for those that do not being particularly conducive to casual cycling. Hopefully Serco will have things sorted when, and if, the thaw finally sets in.
 

2 user comments

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Hmm, if the system crashes on a day when there are comparatively few cyclists due to cold weather it does beg the question how robust the software is. On another note, the Freight Transport Association is urging its members to watch out for novice cyclists using the Boris Bike scheme. Maybe I'm reading too much into this press release but the FTA seems to suggest most accidents involving cyclists and trucks are not the fault of the truck driver - I think police incident data may say otherwise:

Beware of novice cyclists! FTA warns truckers as Cycle Hire Scheme launches to casual users
Lorry drivers in London should be extra vigilant as thousands of inexperienced cyclists are expected to take advantage of the Cycle Hire Scheme, launched by Transport for London (TfL) today.
The Cycle Hire Scheme will allow anyone with a credit card to hire a bicycle from one of the many docking stations around London. Gordon Telling, FTA’s Head of Urban Logistics Policy, said:
“We are all for promoting cycling as a safe and sustainable mode of transport but, tragically, London sees by far the highest proportion of cycle and lorry collisions in the UK. This scheme is about attracting new or novice cyclists onto London’s roads and to ensure their safety, we would like to also promote greater understanding between cyclists, as vulnerable road users, and lorry drivers.”
Earlier this year, FTA supported the Mayor of London's Cycling Revolution campaign and developed the Cycling Concordat, a Memorandum of Understanding between Transport for London and FTA. This is all part of TfL’s plans to encourage cycling in the capital, with the top priority being to reduce cyclist casualties, in particular those resulting in collisions between cyclists and HGVs.
Telling concluded:
“Problems occur as cyclists that have perhaps never cycled or not for a long time take to the roads and try to keep up with the more accomplished bike riders that are used to London’s roads and know how to behave around a lorry. The vast majority of truck drivers are well aware of the dangers cyclists can sometimes expose themselves to around heavy vehicles, but they must now employ greater vigilance.”
ENDS
Notes for editors
Since 2008 freight operators have spent over £75 million retrofitting mirrors to HGVs to improve visibility as well as supporting campaigns to promote the use of Fresnel lenses
The number of cyclists killed or seriously injured on London’s roads has fallen by 21 per cent over the last decade compared with the Government’s baseline figures from the mid to late 1990s.
Cycle journeys on London’s major roads are now up by 117 per cent since TfL was created in 2000 and by 14 per cent since April 2008. The Mayor and TfL are working towards a target of increasing the number of cycle journeys made in London by 400 per cent by 2026 (compared to 2000 levels).
For further press enquiries contact FTA’s media team on 01892 552255/01892 552253 or, out of hours, on 07818 450425.

OldRidgeback

posted by OldRidgeback [2205 posts]
3rd December 2010 - 18:09

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I heard from a reliable source that TfL expects between 2 to 6 cyclists to be killed on the Boris bikes within the first 2 years of operation.

posted by londonplayer [671 posts]
4th December 2010 - 3:13

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