London’s biggest Barclays Cycle Hire docking station will open at 10 o’clock this morning at Waterloo Station, providing spaces for 126 of the city’s fleet of navy blue ‘Boris bikes.’ The unveiling of the new facility comes as Transport for London (TfL) reveals that 2 million journeys have now been made under the scheme since it started at the end of July.
The new docking station, the first to be opened at a mainline terminus, will be welcomed by commuters who use the station. In the first few months the scheme has been in operation, TfL has deliberately avoided putting a hire facility so close to a major railway station while the operation beds down, but that hasn’t deterred commuters from picking up bikes at nearby docking stations.
That in turn, however, has led to frustration as people arriving into the city in the mornings find that all bikes close to a station have been taken, or have found it impossible to find a spare docking point to return their bike in the evening, with reports in the early days of the scheme that bikes were simply being left piled up in front of bemused TfL staff near Kings Cross.
At docking points close to Waterloo, Serco, which operates the Barclays Cycle Hire Scheme, has deployed staff to help redistribute bikes during the morning and evening rush hours.
However, TfL says that will no longer be necessary following the opening of the new ‘super’ docking station, which is located on Can Road, the road used by taxis at the front of Waterloo Station, between the central exit (next to Costa Coffee) and the Victory Arch (the exit from the station closest to the IMAX cinema).
Despite teething problems when the scheme first opened and again when many docking stations crashed on the very morning the scheme opened to non-members, TfL is rightly hailing the 2 million journey figure as a significant landmark. Some 9,500 of those journeys – almost 1,000 a day – have been made by casual users in the past ten days, the remainder by the scheme’s 110,000 members.
Plans are now underway to expand the scheme into the East of the capital in time for London 2012, although restrictions on advertising mean that the bikes won’t be allowed into the Olympic Park, due to the scheme being sponsored by Barclays. Ultimately, however, there will be 8,000 bikes and 14,400 docking points throughout the capital.
Kulveer Ranger, the Mayor of London's transport advisor, commented: “There is an incredible demand for Barclays Cycle Hire bikes at Waterloo and we have responded to this by ensuring that people using this landmark railway station can now pick up or drop off a bike at our first super-size docking station.
"With over 2 million journeys made in just under five months we are confident this expanded docking station will be of great benefit to the thousands of Londoners and visitors using the bikes.”
Mike Goggin, Network Rail's director of stations and customer service, added: “The new docking stations at Waterloo will make it much easier and more convenient for passengers who use Britain’s busiest station to make cycling part of their daily journeys.”
Hinting that other stations may follow Waterloo’s lead, he continued: “Network Rail and the train operators are improving cycling facilities at stations all over the country so passengers can take advantage of the many benefits combining rail and cycling offers. We continue to work with TfL to explore options for Barclays Cycle Hire docking stations at other mainline stations in London to meet increasing demand.”
Deanna Oppenheimer, Vice-Chair, Global Retail Banking, CEO Western Europe and CEO UK Retail Banking at Barclays, said: “To record 2 million cycle journeys since July illustrates the positive public response to Barclays Cycle Hire. This demand is further demonstrated by the opening of the new ‘super’ docking station at Waterloo and we look forward to many more people continuing to enjoy the benefits of the scheme.”
TfL points out that the quickest and easiest way to hire a bike is by becoming a member of the scheme and further details can be found on its website. Non-members, including visitors to Britain, can hire a bike by following the instructions on the terminal at docking stations and paying wit a Visa or MasterCard credit or debit card.
Simon has been news editor at road.cc since 2009, reporting on 10 editions and counting of pro cycling’s biggest races such as the Tour de France, stories on issues including infrastructure and campaigning, and interviewing some of the biggest names in cycling. A law and languages graduate, published translator and former retail analyst, his background has proved invaluable in reporting on issues as diverse as cycling-related court cases, anti-doping investigations, and the bike industry. He splits his time between London and Cambridge, and loves taking his miniature schnauzer Elodie on adventures in the basket of her Elephant Bike.