This morning at 6 AM, Big Ben, the clock tower over Parliament, chimed the news that London joins other European capitals in the bike-sharing revolution with the introduction of Barclays Cycle Hire. London Mayor Boris Johnson is following the same path as Paris Mayor Bertrand Delanoë did 3 years ago this month by bringing bike-sharing to his city’s citizens. Although London’s Barclays Cycle Hire is one quarter the size of Paris’ Vélib’, it will be just as transformative.
Following the same formula as most bike-sharing systems, one can subscribe for one day at £1 ($1.55 US), one week at £5 ($7.80 US) or one year at £45 ($70 US). The first 30 minutes are free and then the next 30 minutes of use is £1, and after that the price for keeping the bike escalates very steeply. The cost of the Cycle Hire member “key”, the RFID access card, is £3 ($4.70 US).
For the first month, the system will be open only to members who register online for any level of subscription. To date, about 10,500 people have registered to become "pioneer" members of the scheme. The bikes will not be available for walk-up “casual use” to non-members during this breaking-in period. SERCO, the operator, and Transport for London (TfL) want the bikes to be the very best system possible and to understand how members engage with the scheme. So don’t rush to London and expect to whip out your Barclaycard, Visa, or Master Card at a station and try to grab a bike just yet.
When fitted out, Barclays Cycle Hire will have 6,000 bikes and 400 stations all over central London. Only around 4,800 bikes and 330 stations will available at first (see the map below). The bikes will not have auxiliary locks, so they will need to be re-docked for safe keeping. With the docking stations fairly close to each other, this should not present difficulties. We all know bike-sharing is for short trips anyway!
To help keep trips short, London has just opened up new bike lanes called Barclays Cycle Superhighways to get into and through central London a bit easier and faster. To reduce auto traffic, London’s City Hall sees these new bicycle amenities as a start of many initiatives it can really bank on as is evident by the £25 million (over $39 million US) sponsorship for the bike-sharing and the new bike lanes from Barclays Bank.
The Cycle Hire bike is similar to the Vélib’ of Paris in size and weight. The bikes are made in Quebec, Canada by Divinci and supplied to London by Public Bike System Company. These same bikes are in service in Montréal, Bixi – BicycleTaxi, Minneapolis, Minnesota - NiceRide, and in Washington, DC and Arlington, VA - Capital Bikeshare in September. The bikes should be sturdy enough for London traffic.
From now on, the streets of London will flow with a new transportation icon: the bike in blue, black, and gray; its place secure with the double decker red bus and the ubiquitous black taxi.
More related London Cycle Hire posts in The Bike-sharing Blog: Banking on Bike Sharing - May 28, 2010, London calling - August 12, 2009, London shifts into high gear - April 30, 2009, Lock up or lock out - April 8, 2009
images: Peter Macdiarmid/Getty ImagesRussell Meddin bikesharephiladelphia.org