Wednesday, 14 November 2012

Doubling of Boris Bike Fares from 2 January 2013 - DISASTROUS move by Boris Johnson and TfL

EDIT (25/4/13) - As predicted... Boris Bike rentals drop by a third in the first three months of 2013 (and that's despite an overall increase in the total number of journeys made by bike in London, and large amounts of 'cycling publicity' caused by our new Cycling Commisioner)


From 2 January 2013 daily access to the London Cycle Hire Scheme will double from £1 to £2, weekly access from £5 to £10, and yearly access from £45 to £90.

This is an absolutely atrocious move by Boris Johnson and TfL at just the point when cycling in London generally, and usage of the Boris Bikes, seems to be on the rise.

As this blog has previously argued, one of the principle advantages of the London Cycle Hire Scheme (if not the principal advantage) is the low cost of renting a Boris Bike, making it in almost all situations the cheapest way of getting around London short of walking.

Increasing the charge for access fees by 100% - while bus and tube fares rise by only 4.2% - will completely destroy London Cycle Hire's position as the cheapest form of transport in London, and make single bus and tube journeys, in certain situations, a cheaper way for a Londoner to get from A to B than renting a Boris Bike.

Similarly, raising the price of annual subscriptions will make it much harder to woo new members to the scheme and may convince many existing customers (like myself) to choose not to renew their membership next year.

Yearly membership to London Cycle Hire to double from £45 to £90 from January 2nd 2013.
While their might be a very slight uptake is usage from certain sections of the upper-middle classes that will inevitably see a more expensive product as worth buying simply on account of its higher price, the overall and unavoidable effect of this price hike will be to further to cement an image of cycling that is centered on the rich, white, middle class.

This is exactly what cycling shouldn't be.

Cycling is the cheapest, greenest, and healthiest mode of transport known to man. It should therefore be associated with all social groups, especially lower-income segments of the population.

Instead Boris Johnson and TfL's latest decision will only further entrench a completely unnecessary and invalid view of cycling that is restricted to 'lyrca-louts' and 'arsehole-bankers'.

Moreover, if the doubling of rental costs results in a dip in Boris Bike usage, this fare increase could very well lead to an increase in cycling deaths and fatalities in London.

Over the past few years large numbers of Boris Bikes in Central London have helped to calm traffic and make the streets safer for everyone. This benefit to all Londoners that choose to cycle (or walk) will be lost if Cycle Hire usage declines.

This blog has championed Boris Johnson's efforts in the past, but this fare increase is idiotic, incompetent.

Worse, it will in any case be ineffectual, since too few Londoners use the Boris Bike scheme to contribute anywhere near the billions of pounds needed for the continuing tube upgrade (and £180 million which the new routemasters cost). The fiscal burden should instead be borne by the tax payer, and tube and bus users themselves.

If you believe that the planned price rises are ridiculous and cretinous, please feel free to drop Barclays Cycle HireBoris Johnson, and TfL an email and let them know your thoughts.


Please see also similar responses from The Evening Standard, I love Boris Bikes, and The Telegraph on this issue.


  1. This is an excellent piece, and very timely. I have updated my own blog to link to it. But I don't know whether TfL will listen.

  2. I don't profess to know what TfL expect to achieve by the price hike, still less whether they will actually achieve it, however one thing I do know: the uses to which they anticipated the bikes would be put before the scheme was launched are not he uses to which they are actually put.

    Eevery weekday morning by 9am, every dock within a few hundred metres of Waterloo will be denuded, and every evening by 6:45 they will be stuffed to capacity. That is unless Serco trucks in or out dozens of spare bikes. Then a queue will form to get a bike/ a space. That queue will comprise middle class professional rail commuters, predominantly men.

    A friend of mine uses a borisbike every day to commute from Waterloo to Hackney. She now has to cross the Hungerford Bridge to pick up a bike near Charing X as none are available around Waterloo at 8:30.

    Will these users be put off by paying £90 instead of £45 (clearly it pays to have the annual season)? I doubt it.

    A 100% increase sounds sharp compared with a 4.2% increase, but how does the tube/bus fare, expressed as a proportion of the true cost of the journey, compared with the bike hire charge likewise?

    I share your view that the uptake of the hire bikes should be encouraged in all ways possible, but that is not necessarily how TfL will see it, and quite possibly they think that the uptake will not actually be materially affected, or that it will simply reduce to the point that the docks function at optimum efficiency, ie with no need to restock or make spaces from a Serco van. They might even calculate on the vanishing users reverting to the bus or tube and increasing fares taken there.

    Either way, TfL probably does not see it as part of its remit to promote healthy or environmentally sensitive forms of travel. Road safety is within their remit and I agree that boris bikes have certainly not increased road danger for cyclists. On the whole however, I reckon we should be looking to government to take the necessary oversight role on health, pollution, congestion, trade balance in petroleum etc which are all positives for cycling.

    They could start by improving signange rules to make cyclist traffic lights possible, or lobbying for better European safety directives on HGVs, and rejecting any notion of the 25 metre/75 tonne truck being pernmitted anywhere near a British road. Oh, and forgetting their ludicrous notion of increaed speed limits for HGVs.

  3. While this does suck it wont stop me from riding a Boris Bike. I still see it as value for money compared to the alternatives.

    Even if there is a decrease in usage what is there to say those people wont have learnt that a journey they used to make using the tube/bus wont just walk. The best thing that the Boris bike taught me was how small central London is an how easy it is to get around. I doubt I am the only one either so regardless that has to be a good thing. I very rarely take the tube or bus to get to work, walking and cycling I get to see things I wouldn't normally see if I were stuck on the tube or bus.

    What I see is TFL adjusting the prices to what it actually costs to run the scheme. They hooked users' with their initial low price and now just adjusting it.

    Think of what happens with petrol prices when they go up. Initially people will complain and stop using their cars but in the long run people just go back because they can't do without. I think this will be a similar situation, there may be an initial drop but I don't think it will as drastic as everybody is making it out to be.

    It could be much worse, they could say they are losing too much money and just scrap the scheme.