Friday, December 9th 2016 at 8:00AM GMT
Six years ago, the then-mayor of London Boris Johnson lobbied for the introduction of the first citywide cycle scheme to ever be introduced onto the bustling streets of the capital. With the aid of Transport for London, Serco, and significant support from Londoners, the hire system was officially implemented, changing the way people travel in the city. Fast-forward to the present day, and Santander’s bike scheme is doing extremely well. With a successful app launch under its belt and a new bike in development, head of operations at TfL Matthew David sat down with me to give his perspective on the past, present and future of Santander bikes.
There’s some confusion surrounding the origins of the London cycle scheme, could you clear that up for us?
The scheme started in 2010 under the direction of Boris Johnson as mayor. TfL followed that lead and created the service on his request.
Some people believe that it was under Mayor Livingstone, but certainly, it was Boris who drove it forward into fruition. We went live on July 31st 2010, and we introduced the casual hire December of that year.
What key elements defined the success of the scheme?
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We’ve been running for six years now, and we’ve amassed 53 million hires. When we went live I wasn’t sure that Londoners would take to it or not. The only reference we had was the Paris scheme, which had massive problems with theft and vandalism. In fact, it lost almost 90 per cent of its bikes in the first year, so we knew that ensuring that the bikes were secure would be an essential element of our own scheme’s success. We needed to keep its integrity; if people thought they could steal the bikes readily, then the whole scheme would have fallen over.
How many docking stations are currently in London?
As of right now there are 785 docking stations around the city. That makes just short of 22,000 docking points.
What system was put in place to evenly distribute the bikes?
Circo are contracted to operate the scheme for us. They have software packages that they use to run the numbers and basically guide their drivers to the stations in the mornings and take the bikes to places of high demand. It’s a constant challenge. It’s the greatest challenge that we have. At the end of the day, people just want to hire a bike and return it somewhere convenient.
What are the main benefits of membership?
You sign up once, you give your details once, and then you can go up straight away and unlock a bike. You don’t have to mess around with the terminal at all. You go straight to a dock and release a bike. We have 24-hour membership, which starts at £2, or an annual membership, which is £90.
What is the length of the average journey undertaken on a Santander bike?
We don’t have GPS trackers, so we know where a journey starts and ends, but we have no way of knowing where the rider has been in between. The average journey time for a member is around 15 minutes, but what’s more encouraging for TfL is that casual hires are at around 32 minutes in length, meaning that people are cycling for a significant period of time.