Sunday, January 9, 2011

London's Bike Rental Program is Gaining Ground

mayor bike photo

London introduced a bicycle rental scheme last year, officially called the Barclays Cycle Hire but affectionately called Boris Bikes after the mayor, Boris Johnson.

Now into its sixth month, survey results on who uses the scheme have been released. It turns out that it works--brilliantly. With 20,000 trips a day being made, people are switching from using buses and subways to cycling. Six out of ten of the users are new converts.
sticker barclay photoMost users of the scheme are just like the Mayor: white, well-paid professional men. According to a survey of 3,700 people, carried out by Transport for London in their Travel in London report, the average user is white, male professional and aged 25 to 44. Six in ten earned more than £50,000 ($78,000) a year. Only 5% earn less than £20,000 a year. Approximately 88% of the users are white British or Irish.

More than 100,000 have taken out subscriptions to use the bicycles (at £3 a pop) and more than 80,000 of those people live in London.

However many live outside London which shows that commuters are using the bicycles for the last leg of their trip to work. The biggest switch in use has been to bicycle use from subway or buses. Some 35% of the users had switched from taking the Tube (subway) and 23% of bicycle trips were made by people who had previously taken the bus. This may be a reflection of the economy and the impact of rising transit fares. Another 29% of the users are biking instead of walking.
switch bikes photo

The great thing is that the scheme has attracted people who were not previously cycling in London. Six in ten of the users had taken up cycling since the scheme started and have replaced transport usage with bicycle usage.

The most common reason for hiring a bicycle was to travel to and from work (67% of respondents) so the majority (86%) of trips are made on a weekday. Most trips are between 10 and 30 minutes in length (the system is free for the first 30 minutes).

Other reasons for use were cited as leisure at 38%, meeting friends and family at 30%. Shopping was in fifth place (26 per cent).


  1. that's awesome! so you get a subscription that allows you to grab a bike anytime...and then you pay for any time over 30 minutes?

  2. Yep, that is the way most of the bike share programs around the world work. The DC and Denver one works that way, and the proposed one in NYC is too. It just requires some subsidy from the government, but it makes a huge difference in the amount of ridership. The money that is spent by the government is made back by the lack of congestion and road wear and tear.