Dockless cycle hire competition ‘good thing’ for TfL

Transport for London’s long-established cycle hire scheme is seeing declining usage while dockless rivals grow, reports Noah Vickers, Local Democracy Reporter

Sadiq Khan’s deputy mayor for transport has said he welcomes the rise in dockless e-bikes for boosting cycling in the capital – despite a sharp decline in the usage of Transport for London’s (TfL) own hire scheme.

The Local Democracy Reporting Service revealed last week that the number of journeys made so far this year using TfL’s Santander Cycles is the lowest in a decade, and is a third down on the same period last year.

TfL’s head of cycle hire, David Eddington, said a number of factors were to blame, though he picked out the “consistent bad weather recently” as having had “a significant impact on casual hires”.

But deputy mayor Seb Dance instead highlighted the growing popularity of dockless e-bike companies, which now compete with TfL’s docked scheme.

“Obviously I want to see many more people use [TfL] cycle hire, it’s a fantastic scheme. It’s enormously boosted active travel rates across the city,” he said.

“But what we’re also seeing is a number of competitors on the market.

This story is published by Waltham Forest Echo, Waltham Forest's free monthly newspaper and free news website. We are a not-for-profit publication, published by a small social enterprise. We have no rich backers and rely on the support of our readers. Donate or become a supporter.

“Ordinarily, you might think that I’d be slightly concerned about that, but what we’re also seeing is an overall increase in the numbers of people cycling.

“So all in all, this is a good thing. It’s contributing towards our 80% [of all journeys made in London] target for active and public transport by 2041 – this the mayor’s objective, which he set out in 2018 and which we’re working every day towards.”

He added: “Although, yes obviously I would love more and more people to use the [TfL] cycle hire scheme, the fact that there are competitors out there providing an alternative is actually a good thing.”

Asked whether changes may need to be made to boost the numbers on TfL’s bikes, Dance said he holds “discussions on a regular basis […] on how we can improve the scheme and how we can react to the changing circumstances”.

The decline in use for TfL’s scheme appears to have started in September 2022, when TfL increased the cost of an annual subscription from £90 to £120.

The pricing for single journeys was also changed to become a flat rate of £1.65 per half hour of use. Previously it was £2 for a whole day of access to the bikes, as long as each journey lasted less than 30 minutes.

While 7,383,232 journeys were made from January to July 2022, just 4,976,813 hires have been recorded in the equivalent period this year.

No news is bad news 

Independent news outlets like ours – reporting for the community without rich backers – are under threat of closure, turning British towns into news deserts. 

The audiences they serve know less, understand less, and can do less. 

In celebration of Indie News Week, Public Interest News Foundation's Indie News Fund will match fund all donations, including new annual supporter subscriptions for the month of June.

If our coverage has helped you understand our community a little bit better, please consider supporting us with a monthly, yearly or one-off donation. 

Choose the news. Don’t lose the news.

Monthly direct debit 

Annual direct debit

£5 per month supporters get a digital copy of each month’s paper before anyone else, £10 per month supporters get a digital copy of each month’s paper before anyone else and a print copy posted to them each month.  £50 annual supporters get a digital copy of each month's paper before anyone else.

Donate now with Pay Pal

More information on supporting us monthly or annually 

More Information about donations