There is only one public transport service in London that works 24/7/365 and that is the Santander Cycle hire service, more popularly known as the Boris Bikes. They are very proud of this and during my visit they were keen to point out that Christmas Day is one of the busy days of the year for them!
As a councillor I get a lot of questions about the Santander bikes – Why are the racks full/empty? What to do if you find a lost one? Are they better than the new e-bikes you see scattered around? More than answering those questions, being a bike nerd, I was keen to see how the system works, who repairs them, how long do they last, how much do they cost etc.
Some basic facts:
- There are 21,000 docking points
- 800 Docking Stations.
- 12,300 bikes.
- The area covered is 100 km2.
- The scheme has been going 10 years.
- It is supported annually with £6.5m from Santander Bank.
- The customer helpline runs every day of the year.
- Each bike costs about £1000
- The tyres are inflated with nitrogen to make them harder and more puncture resistant.
- The bikes will start having GPS in the new year for better tracking.
- A docking station costs 10’s of thousands of pounds.
- Daily journeys vary from daily peaks in the summer of around 45,000 to winter use as low as 10 – 15000.
- In ten years there have been two deaths on them.
- Balancing the supply and demand with stations being too full or empty.
- Keeping the bikes in good condition.
- Whether they will turn into e-bikes one day. 25 are being tested.
- Originally they were not expecting big use by commuters but stations like Waterloo are the hot spots for cycle hire where they have 110 docking stations and a small depot with reserve supplies that they use to fill up the stations during the day.
- Disappearing bikes – see my photos below.
- How to expand the scheme
- Finding local support for the docking stations (Windmill Row was abandoned in our area through local opposition).
I learnt a lot with my visit to their Islington depot and control centre. There is also one in Clapham. This is the control room that orders the 35 or so lorries around and attends to any emergencies.
Here are the workshops where £1m of spare parts are used annually by these highly trained mechanics.
The original bikes (blue mudguards) came from Canada, the new ones (stronger grey mudguards) are from UK manufacturer Pashley.
Some people choose their own colour schemes:
And a few of the old Boris Bikes still turn up from time to time:
Some have accidents and need repairs and some go for a a swim in the canals:
As much as possible is recycled.
Thanks to David Eddington (TFL) and David Schofield (SERCO) for showing me round
Cllr Jon Davies