London Cycle hire scheme – Your thoughts?

Cycle hire scheme

It has been an eventful first week for the Cycle Hire Scheme. First we were told a few days before the launch that you had to pre-register. Then lots of people had problems registering and their cards being accepted. Upon launch a number of people reported bikes whose brakes were overzealous. Other people reported cycle hire docking stations not working. Lot’s of people forgot to register their cards and a few even got hit by big charges as they didn’t dock the bike correctly.

At the same time most people reported a completely smooth experience.

When I asked the question “Will you be registering for the cycle hire scheme?” the article received a huge number of responses and became the 2nd most commented on all the blog. It was fascinating to read through different people’s experiences and I was very glad to see TfL refunding those people who were hit with over charges. In this weeks Comment Friday I want to follow up and hear about people’s experiences with the scheme now that it has been going for 1 week. 

Did you try it? Are you finding the bikes are available? Have you heard about the spinning the wheels trick? Have you still not received your key card? Did you enjoy being a “pioneer” of the scheme with fellow cyclists? Will you be using it for your daily commute or for short hops? Did you manage to stay in your first 30 minutes? What do you think of the bike? Any tips for fellow cycle hire users?

Leave your answers in the comments..

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117 Responses to London Cycle hire scheme – Your thoughts?

  1. Helen Lianos 08/10/2011 at 10:28 am #

    Hi there,
    I’ve been wanting for a while to find a way to give feedback about the scheme: this came up when I googled — doesn’t look active (last post back in January) but I live in hope that if someone at LCC will know how to pass my comments on to the cycle hire scheme so that they are taken seriously?

    I love the scheme and think it is great. But there are some issues that are problematic:

    1. The bells are really useless. You have to sort of swipe sideways at the edge really vigorously to get any noise out of them, trying a few times to get the knack. When it’s an emergency & you need to warn someone, it’s too late. This is dangerous in my view.
    2. I have a fob: I can’t tell you how many times it is unreliable. Try bike after bike and they all go red, wasting several minutes each time before giving up and going on public transport. Not good enough. I was told last time this happened by the call centre that at rush hour the system “gets clogged up”. Needs sorting!
    3. The online statements explaining your charges are badly presented: too complicated, hard to read, I am never really sure whether I have been charged correctly or not, because it’s really hard to reconcile the charges that hit my credit card with what shows on the screen.
    4. They should publish the normal number along with the 0845 number on all signage / website / leaflets. The vast majority of callers will be using mobiles, on which 0845 numbers cost a fortune.
    5. The maps showing where the nearest bikes are are very useful — but if you are at a station on the fringes or where there aren’t very many nearby bikes, they don’t show the nearest ones — can the larger area maps show where the further ones are, as well?
    6. Can tube station maps and bus stop maps show the bike locations as well?
    7. I would like to have more than one fob, but NOT connected to each other (see point 8): one for me, one for my teenaged daughter, one to have for guests/visitors. This is not possible without having three separate credit cards and email addresses, which seems ridiculous: I’m happy to be responsible for the costs of all 3 fobs, why can’t I have one account with three different fobs?
    8. I do realise that I can have up to four fobs on one account, but that they would all be charged as soon as one is activated, which seems most odd: who one earth always cycles in unison with several other people? I can’t believe this odd arrangement suits many users.

    I would greatly appreciate these points being passed on to the people responsible for managing the relevant aspect of the scheme.

    Helen Lianos

    • Sam 21/03/2012 at 12:25 pm #


      My wife and I have two fobs on one account. I have been scanning forums for an hour or so and I keep on seeing people mentioning the same thing you did in point 8. I don’t get it. We use the bikes together sometimes and separately sometimes. I am looking at our “Activity Log” and I don’t see any times when we were charged double for anything. If we use for over 1 hour we’re charged 4 GBP and if we use for between 30 min and 1 hr its 1 GBP. Same happens if we ride together or if only one of us is using a cycle. So, where’s the double charge?

      My question is how on the website do I request the other fobs for additional users. We have some friends coming to town and wanted to cycle together, and didn’t want the hassle of paying with a card. Do I actually have to call?! I Hate the call center. Ugh what a hassle? Please assist. Anybody?

      – Sam

      – sam

      • James R Grinter 21/03/2012 at 8:58 pm #

        Sam – it was the ‘membership’ fee. If you opt for the daily fee (pay on the days when you use it) then the system would charge the fee for both fobs, even if only one hired a bike and returned it within half an hour.

        (For the first year I had two fobs, both paying the yearly fee. But we didn’t actually use them enough to justify paying that, and the double-charging fiasco has meant we’ve never used them since.)

  2. Djb 22/10/2011 at 8:53 am #

    I’ve been waiting two weeks for my key to arrive. Called the help line a few days ago and it’s seems to have gone ‘missing’. They’ve reissued a second key and I’m still waiting!! Didn’t hesitate to debt my bank account straight away. Typical!

  3. Patrick 14/03/2012 at 6:45 pm #

    A copy of my e-mail to Barclays cycle hire.
    The flakiness of the system (from bike to web site)
    is driving me up the wall.


    Dear Madam, Sir,

    I’m sending this as an e-mail, since your web “contact us” form
    does not work (no matter what I try, it always returns the same
    page with the word “Invalid” in red letters under my message):

    I’m a professional software developer, and am amazed at the poor
    functioning of this part of your web site.

    A complaint, March 14, 2012:
    Dear Madam, Sir,

    Just now I tried to take out a bike at Notting Hill Gate.

    After a few tries (!) I found a bike that gave me a green light.
    As I tried to pull it out, the light immediately turned yellow, then red.
    Other bikes there gave me an immediate red light.

    I walked to the next station (Palace Gardens Terrace), where I could not
    take out a bike. I called, spent 10 minutes on the phone with one of your
    people, who couldn’t fix the problem.

    Because of this I wasted a lot of time, money, and I missed an appointment.

    I’m not happy that frequenty I have to try multiple times before
    I get the green light.

    I would appreciate it if you would let me know what went wrong.

    In addition: I sent an enquiry about a week ago, and have not yet received a reply.

    best regards,


    incident date: 14/3/2012
    time: 17.48
    station: Notting Hill Gate

    A second enquiry, sent March 2, with no response from you:


    Yesterday morning I biked from Notting Hill Gate to Cardinal Place Victoria
    (arrival approximately 10.45, March 2). If I remember correctly, my bike number
    was 14784. When putting it back in the slot, the light came up red.
    I also can’t find this trip in my recent activity list.

    I tried taking the bike out again, and putting it back in, but the light
    again came up red.

    What exactly happened here?



    • Nikos 05/04/2012 at 1:58 am #

      Patrick, I’ve had the same problem trying to send a feedback message to Barclays Cycle Hire.

      When I tried to send it as an attached txt file I received a file format error “application/octet-stream” MIME attachment.

      When I tried to send it as an attached pdf file it returned “Required” under the empty message box.

      So I tried with a short (2-line) message which again returned “Invalid”.

      What was successfully submitted? a message consisting of a space character (‘ ‘) and an attached pdf containing the actual message! Riddle solved :p


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