Some spokes in the bike hire wheel


Serco has a contract worth £160m over six years to run the cycle hire scheme

Many people absolutely love Boris Johnson's bike hire scheme and it's really popular with around 22,000 trips taken a day.

It also has a loyal following with many web forums like

However, there have been problems bubbling along for some time including:

  • Faulty bikes
  • Call centre queries
  • Overcharging on accounts

There's also been some concern that the experience for casual users isn't ideal, especially when using a credit card.

In fact, I have found out the contractor Serco has been penalised £5m for not meeting targets set in its contract and has had payments withheld.

Insiders have also told me that the current model doesn't work, especially around mainline train stations where docking stations empty straight away.

Start Quote

Cycle hire scheme

They said the only way for the system to work... is to charge more at rush hour”

End Quote Tom Edwards

They said that the only way for the system to work and for docking stations to be refilled by users is to charge more at rush hour to limit demand.

I can't see that happening in the run-up to the mayoral election, but it is quite an admission.

Another interesting point is that there's been an big increase in casual users.

Every weekday 20% of trips are now casual users with that rising to 50% at the weekend. Transport for London (TfL) expect that to rise even more in the summer.

By serving a critical improvement plan and a sending a team into Serco to try and help - TfL hope they can sort out these problems soon.

How have you been finding the hire scheme? Has it got worse recently?

Tom Edwards Article written by Tom Edwards Tom Edwards Transport correspondent, London

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  • rate this

    Comment number 9.

    Tom, For your information see my FOI request here

    It really would not be difficult for them to change the software so that refunds were automatically processed if a hire period was activated but no cycles used. Or even better change the software so that a hire period is not started until a bike is released.

    I think you should start a campaign for this!

  • rate this

    Comment number 8.

    Not sure how much of a difference the crack team from TfL are going to make. The blind leading the blind, springs to mind.

  • rate this

    Comment number 7.

    JP / Olly - i've heard of that a few times. Amazing they haven't sorted it. They'll be making a few quid. Thanks for posting. Needs following up.

  • rate this

    Comment number 6.

    Olly JP - i don't think you are alone. Had a lot of complaints about it. I think most people don't report a one pound loss either so Serco will be making a few quid there. Thanks for posting - needs following up !

  • rate this

    Comment number 5.

    Mammuthus. I said it was popular not a success - and frankly that's not surprising considering it is priced so low it's virtually free. I can assure you I have never "regurgitated Tfl propaganda" infact I spend my professional life doing the opposite. It's a tfl scheme and it's not working as its meant to and ultimately they are responsible. RE Blackfriars - yes agreed. Best Tom

  • rate this

    Comment number 4.

    The hire scheme is not a success. Daily user rates are way below those estimated for the scheme pre-launch. While London's roads remain a hostile cycling environment the hire scheme, and cycling in general will remain marginal. TfL is the problem! Tom Edwards, report on a real issue rather than regurgitating TfL propaganda. What about the Blackfriars Bridge redesign scandal endangering lives?

  • rate this

    Comment number 3.

    I'm struck by people using the Boris bikes for fun!
    I mean in Battersea Park on a fine day people can be seen riding around on the blue jobs in the sunshine simply enjoying themselves, nowhere near any place of work, or rail station. A long disused power station wont count either!
    I'll get photos next.

  • rate this

    Comment number 2.

    Yes it's got a lot worse recently: I've virtually given up trying to use a bike. As JP says, the system charges you for 24 hour access even if the bike didn't realise. Not only that, if you try a second bike it's charged me twice. You can see my account here :

    I've spoken to the helpdesk who make vague promises of repayment. But nothing as yet.

  • rate this

    Comment number 1.

    There is a fundamental flaw in the casual hire system in use. When a user inserts a key the 1st stage is to initiate a 24hr access period, then releases the bike. If the bike does not release you are still charged the 24hrs. This would be easy to fix. Serco have made a lot of money from this as rarely refund. I made an FOI request and on CC users alone they get up to £4,000 a month.



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