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.
“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 per cent [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, Mr 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.