New Public Bike Hire Scheme Gets London Pedalling!
Londons GBP 140 million (Euro 169 mn) Hire Bike scheme was launched with much fanfare last Friday, and broadly speaking was acclaimed a success, but there were a few glitches.
LONDON, UK – London’s GBP 140 million (€ 169 mn) Hire Bike scheme was launched with much fanfare last Friday, and broadly speaking was acclaimed a success, but there were a few glitches.
Strongly backed by London’s bicycling mayor, Boris Johnson, the culmination of two years’ work came to fruition on July 30th with the ‘soft launch’ of the capital’s Bike Hire scheme. From 7am, 4,700 bicycles were available for hire at 315 docking stations throughout the centre of the city, with 300 more machines in reserve, to be distributed to places of high demand throughout the day on special trailers.
No fewer than 12,000 residents had registered on line to become members of the scheme in advance of the launch, and had been supplied with the electronic keys required to unlock the bikes from their docking stations (in exchange for a GBP 3 (€ 3.60) deposit).
The scheme will not be ‘open to all’ for another month, when a further 1,000 bikes and 85 more docking stations are also due to become available and machines will then be accessible with a credit card from the information posts alongside every docking station. The aim is to generate up to 40,000 extra cycle trips a day in central London.
Speaking to BBC Radio London’s Robert Elms’ (who devoted all three hours of his show to cycling, in honour of the new scheme), the mayor’s transport adviser Kulvir Ranger said “We want people to love these bikes and to be proud of them. They are a new icon for London – like red buses and black taxis.”
Sponsored by Barclays Bank, to the tune of GBP 25million (€ 30 mn), out of a total cost of GBP 140million, the heavy but sturdy machines are based on the hire bikes used in Montreal but ‘have 43 improvements’ according to Mr Ranger.
Once registered, (GBP 1 (€ 1.20) per day, GBP 5 (€ 6) per week or GBP 45 (€ 54 per year) bikes can be used for free provided the journey lasts no more than 30 minutes. Charges then rise steeply from GBP 1 for an hour, to GBP 35 for six hours. Ranger said, “We want people to use them like taxis, for one journey at a time, rather than to keep them all day”. The machines are however available 24/7, 365 days per year and third party insurance is included.)
By the end of the 1st day, some ‘teething problems’ had emerged and the Transport for London bike hire helpdesk had been severely stretched. Some people (including your correspondent) had had their on-line registration applications refused; some had problems with the keys, others had difficulty removing the bikes from their docking stations, and some people had been overcharged because the bikes had not been ‘clicked in’ properly when returned.
However, the general consensus was overwhelmingly positive, and the blue and Barclays-liveried “Boris’s bikes” (as they have already been nicknamed) were visible throughout the city centre all day long. Speaking on BBC London again, at the end of the day, Kulvir Ranger said, “Londoners have taken to these bikes like ducks to water.”