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Has Boris Bike price hike put off London’s cycle hire users?

Despite significant expansion of the cycle hire scheme, use is down by 1.1m journeys on last year

Boris bike rentals in London appear to have substantially dropped since the price of a hire was doubled at the start of last year.

Despite large scale expansion of the scheme to the east, west and south west of London, users have used the bikes less in 2013-14 than in the previous year.

The South West expansion alone brought an additional 2,000 bikes to London, but the number of journeys was down from 9,302,704 in 2012-13 to 8,160,398.

The figures are complicated to unravel however, as 2012 benefitted from Olympic visitors to the capital (who appeared to use the bikes an additional 70 per cent), whereas a wet spring in 2013 was combined with a doubling of the price per day to £2. Annual membership rose from £45 to £90.

Total number of hires of the Barclays Cycle Hire Scheme, by day, month and year, since the launch on 30 July 2010 can be found here.

1.1m fewer rides, given the expansion, suggests a significant number of people who previously made use of the scheme choosing other modes of transport.

The scheme’s administration has also published a satisfaction and usage survey of its users.

When asked if users could identify one significant change for the better or worse, the charge increase was mentioned as the main change for the worse.

More docking stations and spaces within them, and the health benefits were mentioned as the main changes for the better.

One user said: “Hopefully car drivers will get used to cyclists. However, cyclists need to obey the rules of the road properly. I've become fitter and feel healthier. I can take the stairs two at a time these days.”

Another added: “I've been able to reach some meetings much more quickly and spent less time travelling, often the bike is faster than taxi, tube or bus.”

But it wasn’t all positive. Another said:  “More bad/inexperienced cyclists on the bikes is sometimes worrying,” while another added: “I'm disappointed that the cost of my annual membership has doubled. Price has doubled, but to my perception, no increase in benefits or service."

The Boriswatch website makes the case that the decrease in usage is directly linked to the price increase. It points out that use was 33 per cent up on the corresponding period in the previous year (immediately before the price change). The month following, use was still up on the year before, but only at 8 per cent. After that it continues to drop, reaching a low point of -39 per cent in the wet March of 2013-14.

We already reported at the end of last year how despite the better weather last summer and autumn, usage of Boris bikes dropped substantially in the six months to November 2013 compared to the same period of the previous year,.

Boris bikes were used almost a million fewer times in the period July-November 2013 compared to the same months in 2012 with  5,635,054 hires in 2012 and 4,606,565 in 2013 and, an 18 percent drop. Usage was down 5 percent in June and almost held steady in July, but was down 21-31 percent for the following four months.

Users felt that the service was “too expensive” and complained of docking stations not working, bikes not being available, and not being fixed quickly enough.

On the other hand, we recently reported how a London lettings agency said that London’s Barclays Cycle Hire Scheme is transforming the residential rental market in areas previously viewed as off-limits by prospective tenants due to their distance from the tube and other public transport – and that streets that have a docking station are in particularly high demand.

According to Benham & Reeves Residential Lettings, in some places what would have been a half-hour walk to the nearest Underground station has been slashed to five minutes by Boris Bike, making such areas attractive to renters looking for cheaper places to rent.

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