Covid-19: Transport for London expands cycle hire scheme to keep up with unprecedented demand


Last month was the best May in London’s cycle hire scheme’s 10 year history, with 1,120,620 hires. Last month also had the highest ever number of hires in a single week – with 362,925 hires made between 25 and 31 May – and the highest ever number of hires in a weekend, with 132,979 hires made on 30-31 May.

The free Santander Cycles hire scheme for NHS (National Health Service) staff has also fuelled demand, with 30,000 free journeys made since the offer was made available in March.

TfL is working hard to keep up with the demand, starting with rolling out eight new docking stations this summer to ensure that more people can use the bikes to get to where they need to be. TfL is working to create more bike hubs in the coming months and plans to improve staffing at key cycle hub locations in central London longer term to ensure that more people can rely on the scheme for ‘last mile’ journeys from major rail stations.

TfL is also making 1,700 more Santander Cycle bikes available, bringing the total to more than 14,000 – an increase of nearly 15% and the largest single increase in bikes for the scheme since 2013.

As well as boosting the Santander Cycle hire scheme, TfL is working to rapidly create extra space for cycling and walking across the capital as part of the Mayor’s world-leading Streetspace for London programme.

TfL is also working hard to return Tube and bus services to normal levels as soon as possible, but even once 100% of services are being operated, the number of people TfL will be able to safely carry will still be constrained to around 13-15% of normal whilst the recommendation of 2m social distancing remains. This means walking and cycling will be central to London’s recovery.

“I’m determined that our city’s recovery from coronavirus will be clean, green and sustainable and enabling more Londoners to cycle is absolutely central to this,” says Mayor of London, Sadiq Khan, “I’m delighted by the unprecedented demand for cycling over the past few months. We’ve seen three times the number of people cycling in some parts of our city compared to before the crisis, huge demand for our free cycle hire scheme for NHS staff and carers, and multiple Santander Cycles records being broken. I am proud that our Streetspace for London plans are making it safer and easier to cycle in our city, and freeing up space on public transport for people who have no alternative.’

“London is facing a significant transport challenge and more people will now need to walk and cycle to ensure that there is enough space on public transport for people who need to use it,” says David Eddington, TfL’s head of cycle hire. “It’s fantastic to see more people than ever using our record-breaking Santander Cycles scheme, which is a brilliant way to start cycling for people who don’t have their own bike. We’re doing everything we can to support the scheme during this period of growth and our tenth year of Cycle Hire. Our new bikes and docking stations will make cycling even easier and more convenient.”

TfL has taken a number of measures to clean the scheme and an anti-viral fluid is being used on docking stations and bikes, including docking stations near hospitals. All touchpoints are regularly cleaned, including the screen, payment device and docking point numbers. To minimise contact with docking stations, people can also use the free Santander Cycles app to hire bikes.

To support vital hospital staff getting into work, NHS workers will continue to be given a code that waives the 24-hour access fee for Santander Cycles, meaning any journey under 30 minutes is free. Care workers and the police can also use the Santander Cycle hire bikes free of charge.

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About Author


Tom has edited Traffic Technology International (TTi) magazine and its Traffic Technology Today website since May 2014. During his time at the title, he has interviewed some of the top transportation chiefs at public agencies around the world as well as CEOs of leading multinationals and ground-breaking start-ups. Tom's earlier 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).