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New sponsors sought for London's cycle hire scheme

Transport for London seeking minimum £5.5m a year over 7 years to rebrand Boris Bikes

Transport for London (TfL) has formally announced that it is looking for a new sponsor for the city’s cycle hire scheme, inviting expressions of interest from potential sponsors prepared to spend a minimum of £5.5 million a year over a seven-year period starting in 2015.

The deal would give the successful bidder naming rights to the scheme, as well as branding on more than hire 10,000 bikes and choosing the scheme colour which would be incorporated on its roundel.

TfL also says that the new sponsor would help develop the scheme, which was launched in the centre of the capital in July 2010 and has subsequently been expanded into east and south west London.

Mayor of London, Boris Johnson, said: “With more than 30 million hires since its launch there can be no doubt that our trusty bicycles have changed the way people get around our great city.

“This is a unique opportunity for a commercial partner to put their stamp on a mode of London transport that is now as recognisable as our iconic black cabs and red buses.

“We are looking for a sponsor whose aspiration matches our own, one with the passion to take the scheme to the next level and get even more people pedalling.”

Part of fabric of London

Graeme Craig, director of commercial development at TfL, added: “Sponsorship of the Cycle Hire scheme offers a unique and exciting opportunity for a leading company to be entwined within the fabric of London.

“The Cycle Hire scheme is already part of London’s iconic transport network and will give a new commercial partner an exceptional level of exposure for their brand as we develop the scheme further.”

A formal tender document setting out the full range of rights on offer will be published online at on 8 July, and expressions of interest are being invited now by email to londoncyclehire2015 [at]

Current sponsor Barclays announced late last year that it was ending its sponsorship of the scheme in 2015, although the mayor and TfL had repeatedly said that in 2011 the bank had agreed an extension to 2018 that would take its investment to £50 million from the original £25 million.

Barclays' sponsorship secrets

Several criticisms have been levelled at the scheme since it was inaugurated, with significant concerns over Barclays’ sponsorship.

Those include the use of a commercial confidentiality clause to stop full details of the contract being disclosed in response to Freedom of Information requests, plus the bank being able to claw back money from the planned £25 million investment when usage levels fell below target.

According to the website MayorWatch, neither is expected to be part of a new sponsor’s contract, and it says that TfL’s openness about the process reflects a transparency that was previously absent.

It adds that “a number of major brands” are believed to have already expressed an interest in backing the scheme, which could result in TfL obtaining more than the £5.5 million a year it is seeking.

Long-term viability

Green Party Assembly Member Darren Johnson said: “The arrival of a bike hire scheme in London was a real boost to cycling in the city and it’s great that it has encouraged some people to take to two wheels.

“However, the doubling of user fees, poor customer service and a lack of capacity has driven some people to stop using the scheme and the Mayor and TfL should be analysing what’s gone wrong and how to address these problems – the long-term viability of the scheme depends on it being used by growing numbers of people.

“I also have serious concerns about the way the scheme has been managed. The flawed procurement process for the sponsorship contract allowed Barclays to benefit from cut price publicity during phase 3 of the scheme. The bank failed to cough up expected extra money but still got full publicity on 2,000 new bikes.

“Meanwhile, local authorities contributed £4m but were prevented from having logos displayed due to an exclusivity agreement with Barclays.”

“Going forwards, we need the Mayor to select sponsors who really understand cycling and can be genuine partners in promoting it as one of the best, fastest and cheapest ways of travelling in London.

“We also need a reassurance that this money is additional to the £913m promised in TfL’s ten year business plan,” he added.

Simon joined as news editor in 2009 and is now the site’s community editor, acting as a link between the team producing the content and our readers. A law and languages graduate, published translator and former retail analyst, he has reported on issues as diverse as cycling-related court cases, anti-doping investigations, the latest developments in the bike industry and the sport’s biggest races. Now back in London full-time after 15 years living in Oxford and Cambridge, he loves cycling along the Thames but misses having his former riding buddy, Elodie the miniature schnauzer, in the basket in front of him.

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