Boris Bikes: The facts behind 10 years of London cycle hire scheme

Boris Bikes: The facts behind 10 years of London cycle hire scheme

Woman on bike in Brockwell Park

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Reuters

It is 10 years since the first bikes belonging to London’s cycle scheme were peddled on to the streets of the capital.

A decade on, BBC News takes a closer look behind the handlebars.

The scheme’s origins

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While the cycles are known by many as Boris Bikes, it was Ken Livingstone who set up a feasibility study into the creation of a cycle hire scheme in London, having been inspired by one in Paris.

The scheme was launched by Boris Johnson on 30 July 2010, when he announced that he wanted the city to be “filled with thousands of gleaming machines”, which would “become as commonplace on our roads as black cabs and red buses”.

Ninety-three million hires

Bikes had been hired an impressive 93,299,451 times from when the scheme was launched up to 30 June this year, according to figures from Transport for London (TfL).

Number of cycle hires every year

On 9 July 2015 when the entire Tube network was closed because of a strike, bikes were hired 73,094 times making it the busiest day since the scheme began.

The day which had the fewest hires was 19 December 2010 with just 2,764. Presumably it was cold and miserable that day.

Celebs in the saddle

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PA Media

The occasional famous face has been spotted using the humble Boris Bike to get around the capital. For some it may have been a photo opportunity, but for others they were just a convenient mode of transport.

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Actor, bodybuilder and former politician Arnold Schwarzenegger joined then-mayor Boris Johnson for a trundle in March 2011, then flew solo for another trip around the capital in June 2015.

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Russell Brand made use of one of the bikes after joining an anti-austerity protest in Westminster in June 2014.

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And slightly more randomly, movie-baddie the Predator was pictured cycling across Westminster Bridge. Perhaps it was searching for Arnie.

The scheme expands

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When the scheme began there were 350 docking stations and 5,000 bicycles.

These days there are 781 docking stations and with another 1,700 new cycles set to join the ranks, there will soon be more than 14,000 of them on the streets.

The scheme now covers 100 sq km (38.6 sq miles) of London, making it one of the largest cycle hire schemes in Europe.

The mechanics behind the machines

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The sturdy aluminium bikes have three-speed gears, a bell and a basket.

The first ones were fitted with dynamo-powered lights but late 2017 saw the introduction of some brand new cycles which feature a gel saddle, tyres with puncture prevention, improved lighting and Bluetooth.

Of the bikes which were first rolled out 10 years ago, 3,993 are still on the road today, although their parts will have been replaced to ensure they are safe and working well.

A total of 6,654 cycles have been decommissioned since the scheme began because of reasons such as they’ve been lost, stolen or damaged beyond repair.

How to ride

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The scheme works by users taking a bike from a docking station and then being able to leave it at any of those in the capital, assuming there is a space free.

Initially, only signed up members who paid an annual fee and had a fob which was sent to them through the post could hire the bikes.

The technology soon changed and while yearly membership is still available, users are also able to just turn up at a docking station or use the official app to hire bikes.

Changing colours

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Barclays initially sponsored the scheme, which was worth £5m per year and led to the bikes being given their original blue livery.

In February 2015, it was announced that Santander would take over sponsorship and the following year the bikes became red. It also meant they gained their current official name – Santander Cycles.

Changing costs

Back in 2010, people paid an annual fee of £45 to be a member along with a usage charge if a bike was taken out for more than 30 minutes. For up to an hour it cost £1, 90 minutes cost £4, and 24 hours cost £50.

Annual membership these days costs £90 a year. Journeys less than 30 minutes long are still not paid for but it costs £2 for every 30 minutes after that.

Those using hire and ride without membership pay £2, which allows them to make an unlimited number of journeys of up to 30 minutes within a 24-hour period. Journeys that take longer than 30 minutes cost £2 for each extra 30 minutes.

The pandemic effect

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There has been a huge increase in the number of people using the bikes over the past few months.

May saw the busiest week in the scheme’s history, with 363,000 hires made between 25th and 31st of that month.

Cycles have been hired more 50,000 times in a day on 10 occasions in the past two months. Over the decade before this year, that had only happened twice.

A very long trip

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Media captionBaz Bignall is cycling 1,000 miles on a ‘Boris bike’ to raise money for Great Ormond Street Hospital

In September 2015, Bournemouth-based Baz Bignall cycled a Boris Bike from John O’Groats to Land’s End for charity.

Fortunately, TfL didn’t charge him for the hire.

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