The lessons London can learn from the Velo’V cycle hire scheme

Last month residents of Lyon in France celebrated 5 years of their cycle hire scheme by cycling up to the mountain that overlooks the city. The hire bikes have become a part of every day life and are considered to be a big success. In London, on the 30th of July, our Cycle Hire Scheme will launch. There are a lot of similarities between the two which are both based on the Bixi design. The benefit we have is that we can learn from the experiences of older schemes. Here are some of the lessons picked up so far and a look at the lessons we have perhaps ignored.

Design of the Barclays Cycle Hire Bikes

In Lyon as well as in Paris each cycle hire bike comes with a bike lock. This is a flimsy lock that can easily be cut by a bike thief. The result is a high number of thefts. In London the bikes will not include a bike lock. Instead, TfL want to encourage people to return the bike to a nearby cycle hire dock. This not only keeps the bike safe but it also means a higher availability of bikes for use.


Design of the Hire Docks

In Lyon docking a bike is a two step process. The second part is when the bike is locked. This means a number of people push the bike into the dock thinking they are done and leave. A thief would then easily come along and simply pull the bike out. In London things have been redesigned to be much simpler. It will be a one step process of pushing in the bike.

Additionally the design in London has been revised so it is far more difficult to pry the bike out of its docking station. Again this is one of the reasons so many bikes were initially stolen in similar schemes.

An increase in accidents

The introduction of the Velo’V cycle hire scheme did result in an increase of 6% in cycle accidents. However, luckily these were none serious and none fatal. This is a positive sign but Lyon and London are of course two different cities. The traffic in London is more intense and so is the size of the city. The worry therefore, is that the introduction of the scheme will result in headlines about cyclists hit on a hire bike. There have been some efforts made to introduce additional safety and training for cyclists. TfL run a subsidised cycle training program in all the London boroughs. There are various other safety initiatives being trialled.

Making the Barclays Cycle Hire Scheme a success

Velo’V in Lyon is a success story of shifting the transportation mode from cars to bicycles. Initiatives such as less car parking and lower speed limits have all helped this change in attitude towards bikes. In London there are worrying signs of not wishing to compromise the experience of motorists to aid the progress of cycling and other methods of transport. The scrapping of the extension to the Congestion Charging zone is one of the most worrying signs.

Walking around Lyon and using the cycle hire bikes you get a sense of the positive impact the scheme has had on the city. There is less congestion, less noise pollution and it is a much more welcoming place to walk around. The scheme has been so successful that it was quickly rolled out to a much wider area.

London may be heading in the right direction but simply introducing the bikes is not enough to really boost cycling in the capital.

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As seen on The Guardian, BBC and The Independent.

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8 Responses to The lessons London can learn from the Velo’V cycle hire scheme

  1. botogol 13/07/2010 at 1:18 pm #

    any financial data on the lyons / paris schemes?
    it’s easy for something to be a ‘success’ if you give it away.

    • Andreas 14/07/2010 at 9:53 am #

      Hi Botogol, you do pay a fee for the VeloV if you are using it. Similar prices to London (though less extortionate if you decide to rent for the day) Figures showing the success of the scheme in terms of rise in number of journeys by bike:

      • botogol 14/07/2010 at 11:27 am #

        yes, but is it commercially successful. I keep reading that the London Cycle scheme costs £1000s per bike…..

  2. Linus 13/07/2010 at 3:11 pm #


    Good to read a more analytical article about the forthcoming hire scheme. Particularly your comment

    “In London there are worrying signs of not wishing to compromise the experience of motorists to aid the progress of cycling and other methods of transport.”

    I would add that like Crossrail, and the Legible London signs, the cycle hire scheme is designed to attract more tourists. Mainland Europe has much higher cycle use than in the the UK and it is this that the Mayor London is trying to tap into in readiness for 2012. Neither Crossrail, Legible London or the London Cycle Hire are about converting people from other modes of transport, but getting a net increase of visitors into central London as a boost to economic growth.

    But European cyclists will very quickly find out that cars rule the road in the UK and our Dutch and German friends will come a cropper if they think that the law allows the less vulnerable modes of transport to take priority as is the case in their countries.

    The other issue about the cycle hire scheme is that this commercial scheme has pushed into central London in residential areas and has the potential to cause disturbance to people. Big Business, while encouraging the scheme because it will bring in more tourists, has been powerful enough to keep the docking stations away from their precious tables and chairs on the pavement.

    One business in Fitzrovia even managed to have Sheffield Strands re-positioned along the street after making a payment to Camden Council.

    Linus (owner of three bicycles)
    Fitzrovia News

    • Andreas 14/07/2010 at 9:52 am #

      Linus, interesting comments. I think the cycle hire scheme will have as much use for tourists as it will for locals. Especially when it is expanded into a wider area. Regarding disruption.. I guess that’s something that time will tell.

  3. Joe 14/07/2010 at 7:48 am #


    Can anyone answer this question for me? In the picture on top of the post, as well as in many of the Velib bikes I found in my recent visit to Paris, I noticed that some had the saddle pointing backwards. My girlfriend and I assumed it was from previous users to show up other new users that the bike was not in good running condition, so we did the same everytime we took a bike that was not working properly.

    Are we right in doing so?

    • Andreas 14/07/2010 at 9:50 am #

      Hey Joe, that is correct. It demonstrates a broken bike 🙂

  4. Denis 14/07/2010 at 10:52 am #

    Joe, yes these are the ways at least in Paris to deal with a faulty bike (it prevents other people to pick it up and makes maintenace staff’s intervention quicker).

    About maintenance, most of the velib bike maintenance in Paris is done “on site” by staff on bikes (carrying all the maintenace tool!). How ever the bike reallocation is done by a “pick-up truck” with an additional trailer.

    For the two steps bike locking I never heard this was a major issue. The only think to do when putting back a velib/velo’V is to wait for the green light on the little stand, which confirms that the bike is well locked. I imagine it will be the same in London?

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