Covid-19: Transport for London reports record 157% increase in bike share registrations

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New figures released by Transport for London (TfL) show that membership of its Santander Cycles scheme rose by 157% in the year to December 2020, representing the largest increase in the scheme’s 10-year history. Meanwhile, new annual memberships increased by a quarter.

Total hire numbers for 2020 were 10,434,167 – an increase of around 6,000 hires from 2019 – despite a significant overall reduction in journeys across London during the pandemic. The figures prove that the scheme provided a lifeline to tens of thousands of Londoners by enabling them to safely make essential journeys during the coronavirus pandemic.

Over the course of last year, the previous maximum daily hire number of 50,000 was surpassed on 14 separate days as record numbers of people tried Santander Cycles for the first time. The festive period also continued to be very busy for Santander Cycles with more than 60,000 hires made between the 25 and 28 December, as people took advantage of quieter streets and dry weather.

In 2020, Santander Cycles played a crucial role in supporting key workers during the pandemic. Free cycle hire access codes have been provided for NHS staff and other key workers, with 217,710 hires so far since it was made available in March 2020. Almost 18,000 people have benefited from the offer to date. The busiest location for NHS code redemption is the docking station on Lambeth Palace Road, Waterloo, near to St Thomas’s Hospital. The offer has been repeatedly extended and is now valid until 21 February.

To celebrate its tenth anniversary year, TfL and cycle hire scheme sponsor Santander have awarded a free annual membership to a dedicated cycle hire user for each month of 2020, naming a bike in their honour. Today, TfL has named the final five winners of the competition, covering August – December:

Jessica Streeting is a children’s nurse working in central London, who has used TfL’s cycle hire scheme to cycle 15 miles round-trip to work on many occasions since the scheme launched 10 years ago. “Santander Cycles are a reliable, enjoyable lifeline to me and especially in winter as they have great lights and are always well maintained”, she says. “When a patient lives out of the borough and I need to get on a train to see them, I’ll often hire a Santander Cycle at the station to see me home, it saves me worrying about lights and locks. Santander Cycles are keeping me safe and healthy and they’re perfect for nurses!”

Later this year, and when it is safe to do so, winners of TfL’s Cycle Hire 10 anniversary competition will be introduced to their honorary bikes, which bear their names on unique gold livery. The winners have also received a year’s free membership.

Will Norman, London’s walking and cycling commissioner, says: “The Santander Cycle Hire scheme has gone from strength to strength since it launched and over the past year many more Londoners have realised what a lifeline it is. Although I’m delighted that many records have been broken, I’m particularly proud that NHS staff and key workers have benefited from almost 220,000 free hires since March, helping support them in carrying out their critical roles.”

The new hire figures highlight a successful tenth anniversary year for TfL’s flagship cycle hire scheme. TfL introduced cycle hire to Londoners on 30 July 2010 with 350 docking stations across eight London boroughs. Today, these numbers have more than doubled: Londoners now have access to 781 docking stations and more than 14,000 bikes. To keep up with increasing demand for cycling, TfL has recently introduced five new docking stations around Clapham Common and Canada Water Tube stations and alongside the Cycleway 4 route in Southwark. A new docking station will also open in Bermondsey later this month and on Gauden Road in Lambeth next month as part of the expansion of the scheme around Clapham Common.

This year, TfL will introduce new measures to improve and modernise the Santander Cycles scheme to ensure it keeps pace with its extraordinary growth. Planned modernisation will include an update to cycle hire terminals and back office systems. These new initiatives will enable TfL to deliver even greater flexibility for Santander Cycles customers and allows the potential for e-bikes to be introduced in the future. TfL will also continue to introduce new GPS tracking capability across the Santander Cycles fleet to further help ensure bikes are always available to hire.

TfL continues to work closely with London’s boroughs to rapidly create space for cycling across the city. This includes building a strategic network for cycling in London, transforming town centres and reducing traffic on residential streets. Last month, TfL, the Royal Borough of Greenwich and the London Borough of Hounslow opened two new temporary cycle lanes totalling almost 5.5km space as part of the Mayor’s bold Streetspace programme. This builds on the 90km of new or upgraded cycle lanes which have been delivered or are under construction since May 2020 in response to coronavirus. These have been delivered using temporary measures to make it easier for people switch car trips for walking and cycling during the pandemic, cutting congestion and pollution, while boosting people’s health and activity levels and reducing pressure on public transport while capacity it reduced.

Santander Cycles can be hired from as little as £2 a day for an unlimited number of 30-minute journeys. More than half of cycle hire users in London today say they started cycling because of the scheme.

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Tom has edited Traffic Technology International magazine and the Traffic Technology Today website since May 2014. During his time at the title he has interviewed some of the top transportation chiefs in charge of public agencies around the world as well as chairmen and CEOs of multinational transportation technology corporations. Tom's early career saw him working on some the UK's leading consumer magazine titles. He has a law degree from the London School of Economics (LSE).