This morning, after four months of operation for locals, London’s extremely successful Barclays Cycle Hire will be open to users from all around the world. On December 3rd Transport for London (TfL) starts allowing non-United Kingdom residents to hire a "Boris Bikes." A casual user, anyone over 14 years of age, with a Visa or Master Card (American Express need not apply) can now walk up to the kiosk at any station to get a bike. Yes, even Master Cards and Visas issued in the USA will work!
There are easy to follow the instructions available in multiple languages on a large video screen at the kiosk. Pay the £1 fee for 24-hour access with your credit card. Like the similar systems in Montréal, Minneapolis, Melbourne, and Washington, the terminal prints out, on paper, a cycle release code for each cycle. A new release code is needed every time you take out a bike; the system remembers the credit card and at no extra charge within 24 hours issues the new release code for each time. Make sure that your cycle is roadworthy, a seat turned around, is the universal bike-share signal that there is a problem! Compose the cycle release code at the docking point. The light will turn amber while your code is verified, then wait for the green light and then pull out your cycle. Like most systems the first thirty minutes are free, then the next 30 minutes is £1, then the price really escalates. Do not keep it too long because two hours will cost £6 and three hours £15. So make those rides short.
If you come to a station that is full and you can’t return the bike. Use the kiosk to locate the nearest empty docking point and get an extra 15 minutes for free to find it. Although there isn’t a location map on the screen yet, there are good maps on each kiosk. The station location map is on-line here and there are various smart phone applications. On a nice day, many of the 6,000 bikes are in use, especially during rush hour. In the morning they are hard to find near the railways stations and at night those stations are full! TfL is building a 124-docking point station at the Waterloo Railway Station to keep up with the demand which could be the largest station in the world. Because of the success of the system, over 1.8 million usages in 4 months, there are plans, announced in November, to expand the system into the eastern part of the city with another 2,000 bikes by 2012.
According to James Mead, Barclays Cycle Hire Operations Manager, there are over 100,000 UK residents subscribing to the system with RFID “keys” which allows access to the bikes. Around 35% of these are annual members and 60% are daily members. The rest are weekly. He expects these new "casual users" to make up around 10% of the total ridership. Currently, there are around 20,000 trips every weekday made on the Boris Bikes and 10,000 on the weekend days. With these usage numbers and such successful public acceptance of the program, analysts are projecting it is on course to become the only TfL system to make an operating profit, according to the newspaper, The Guardian.
Enjoy your ride in London! By the way you do not need to bank at Barclays to use the Boris Bikes.
Keep in mind that in London you ride a bike on the left! Try to use the green bike lanes or the blue "Barclays Cycle Super Highways" lanes as a reminder on which side of the road to ride. Don't forget, the front brake is on the right and the rear on the left!
Update: According to the Evening Standard, the first day of "casual use" of Barclays Cycle Hire was fraught with computer glitches and bad weather. Many kiosk crashed when implementing the added service. It was necessary for technicians to correct the problems on site by rebooting approximate 100 kiosk of the effected stations. It is operational now.
images: The Bike-sharing BlogRussell Meddin bikesharephiladelphia.org