How to use the cycle hire docking stations

Friday is the big day of the cycle hire scheme launch. If you have a key that is and if you’ve activated that key. Apparently 10,000 keys such as the one below (Thanks Adam) have been sent out.


Along with the key you also get various maps and information about staying safe. Wokingham Cyclist has posted about this if you are interested.

If you are part of the cool gang with one of these keys you need to “activate it”. This can be done through the London Cycle Hire website or by calling the helpline.

The process of using the key is as follows:

  • Check that the docking point has no lights illuminated
  • Before taking a cycle from a docking point, check that it is roadworthy (tyres, brakes, saddle, lights, bell)
  • Insert your key into the docking point key slot
  • The amber light will illuminate while your account is being verified
  • As soon as the light turns green, undock your cycle by placing one hand on each of the handle bars and firmly pulling it out of the docking point.
  • Remove your key from the key slot before you set off
  • When re-docking your cycle, return it to any empty docking point which has no lights illuminated by pushing it firmly into place
  • Wait until the light turns green to ensure you have successfully docked your cycle and completed your journey

Or as this TfL woman kindly demonstrated earlier today:

As you can see it’s so easy even a drunk person wanting to get home at night could do it. Though they would probably miss the key entry point a few times and then fall over the minute they ride off. Oh, and also they probably would have left the key in their other trousers and cursed the gods for not been able to just use the Oyster card.

By the way, the annoying clicking sound in the video isn’t the noise the docking station makes to let you know you’re about to hire a bike. In fact a cool sound the docking station could make the minute you put the key in is to have the recorded voice of a woman magically start playing so you can listen to how great Barclays are. I might suggest that to TfL.

I’ll leave you with this nice picture of the Mayors Transport Advisor Kulveen Ranger looking smug:

Kulveen Ranger Next to the cycle hire scheme bikes

And looking less smug as a HGV is about to run him over:

Kulveen next to the docks about to be crushed

Despite the dry humour and sarcasm that plagues this post I am in fact very excited about the Friday launch and will be there covering it for London Cyclist. It will be great to see all the docking stations around London filled with bikes ready for Londoners to hire and I look forward to using it. My housemate for one is very excited to have his key and will no doubt be one the first people to hop on these beautiful blue bikes.

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19 Responses to How to use the cycle hire docking stations

  1. Mr Birch 28/07/2010 at 11:37 am #

    I’m very excited about the whole thing although it does make it harder for me to justify buying a new bike soon. I just hope we all look as good as the Parisians when avoiding death by bus.

  2. Richard 28/07/2010 at 11:41 am #

    Why are cycling nerds generally so excited about the cycle hire thing and so dismissive of the cycle superhighways? Personally I already own a bike so I’m never going to hire one and anytime I’m stuck in London without my bike it’ll be a lot more convenient to get the tube than to rent one. Now that’s just me and other people’s situations will differ but I would have thought most people “into” bikes will be in the same position as me.

  3. Mr Birch 28/07/2010 at 11:44 am #

    I’m no nerd my friend. I’m not that ‘into’ bikes I just enjoy the cycling, I just like the idea of being in town without a bike and being able to get hold of one pretty easily and therefore not having to get on the tube, simple as that; it’s just another option.

  4. Andreas 28/07/2010 at 11:53 am #

    Think Mr Birch summed it up nicely

  5. botogol 28/07/2010 at 12:03 pm #

    on the video it looks like you take your key out BEFORE you remove the bike

    which would be the sensible way to design it. Bike-then-key (as you have in your post) would be a bad design, inevitably leading to a lot of people leaving their keys behind.

    • Andreas 28/07/2010 at 3:33 pm #

      Well noticed! I copied process out of the TfL press release seen as I’ve not been able to actually undertake the process myself yet!

  6. Crofton 29/07/2010 at 10:12 am #

    Had a good look at the bikes for the first time yesterday (see pics on my blog:

    I can’t wait to try them on my commute tomorrow – apparently they will be available from 6 am.

  7. London CBD 29/07/2010 at 10:33 am #

    It is disapointing this system was not linked to the oyster card. This could have been great scheme.

  8. Crofton 29/07/2010 at 11:15 am #

    It seems mad that you can’t use an Oyster card but the reason is simple: you need to provide credit card security so they could, if necessary, recover the £300 non-return fee.

  9. Andreas 29/07/2010 at 1:53 pm #

    Update on Cycle Hire Scheme from TfL:

    Number of docking stations installed: 327
    Total number “fully commissioned”: 271
    Target for number of working docking stations to be open upon launch: 330

    Total registered: 10,749
    Daily: 67%
    Weekly: 5%
    Annual: 39%

    • Andreas 29/07/2010 at 2:22 pm #









  10. Meadowend 29/07/2010 at 2:08 pm #

    Andreas, there’s something wrong with your numbers: 67+5+39=111%. As far as I can see, you have to opt for one of daily, weekly or annual access periods, so there can’t be any double counting…

    • Andreas 29/07/2010 at 2:22 pm #

      Posted the exact figures as my maths is obviously suffering from a lack of time!

  11. Mat 29/07/2010 at 3:18 pm #

    Interesting video! Not sure whether I’m going to sign up even as a casual user just yet. Jury is still out on whether it’s worth it, as I cycle anyway.

    Got some pics here:

  12. Knit nurse 30/07/2010 at 8:59 am #

    Just passed a whole row of shiny new bikes this morning, the wheel-guards of which had been decorated with nicely-printed stickers declaring Barclays ‘doesn’t give a shit about you’ and various other anti-Barclays slogans. Sadly didn’t have a camera, but I suspect there’s quite a few similar ones around….!

  13. BorisBikes 03/08/2010 at 5:45 pm #

    Andreas, a number of people on the Boris Bike forums ( have been having problems with the docks so I have reposted your video there and have linked backed to your excellent article. Hope that’s OK with you.

    • Andreas 04/08/2010 at 9:13 am #

      No problem at all – great idea to start a boris bikes forum btw!

      • BorisBikes 04/08/2010 at 9:57 am #

        Thanks : ) I was surprised no one else had thought of it, I only set it up last Friday morning and it’s gaining popularity by the day. You’re blog is welcome to do a post on it. I can give you some more background if you’re interested just send me an email.

  14. clinton 31/08/2010 at 9:36 pm #

    I have recently signed up to Cycle Hire, but it is so frustrating, I finish work after 9pm in Soho, and there are never any bikes available. I walked to 5 different stations, and every bike was taken, i ended up having to get the tube home!

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