Boris Bikes, casual bike rental in London

Article reviewed: 2013/01/27 | Next review due: 2014/08/15

In July 2010, Transport for London launched a cycle hire scheme, available throughout the city. The rental system similar to that of the ‘Velib’ bikes in Paris.

The Barclays cycle hire scheme (sponsored by the bank of the same name) offers bikes rent around the city, available in thousands of docking stations around zone 1 and zone 2 of London, 24 hours a day, 7 days a week.

Lovingly called 'Boris Bikes', named for the popular mayor of London, Boris Johnson, Boris has now promised to expand the number of bicycles available to 6000 against the 5000 currently in cirulation, with 85 more docking stations against the current 315.

The docking stations are currently all grouped together in zone 1 of London, however this is expected to expand somewhat into zone 2 ahead of the 2012 Olympics.

This system of bike rental is ideal for short urban journeys of under 30minutes and has been adopted in a number of large European capitals such as Barcelona, Paris and now London.

How to rent a bike

First, you must register online at Transport for London. The registration will ask you your name and address and you must confirm that you are over 18 and able to accept the terms and conditions of Barclays cycle hire (including damage and late return penalties).

The idea is that you only use the bikes for up to half and hour, and then dock the bikes once you have reached your destination. Keeping the bike all afternoon would get very expensive, as seen with the the prices below!

Casual use

Casual use is available to all, and is best for occasional hiring and visitors to London.

You pay at the docking station terminal and you can pay for up to three other family members and friends ages 14 and over. You will all have the same access period.

Alternatively, you can buy in advance online on the TFL website (web.barclayscyclehire.tfl.gov.uk/casual).

Membership

You will be asked to choose between three different types of subscriptions (known as the access fee):

  • 24hour access: £1.00
  • 7 day access: £5.00
  • 1 year access: £45.00

Then you must pay each time you use the bike, either:

  • First 30mins: FREE
  • Up to 1hr: £1
  • Up to 1.5hrs: £4
  • Up to 2hrs: £6
  • Up to 2.5hrs: £10
  • Up to 3hrs: £15
  • Up to 6hrs: £35
  • Up to 24hrs (maximum): £50

Where are the docking stations?

There are more than 300 terminals scattered across the centre of London. The TFL website has an online map with a good search function to find your nearest station. The online app also has live updates of cycle availability within each station.

How to rent your bike

  • To rent your first bike, you must first be the holder of a subscription key, which will be sent to you once you’ve registered. Alternatively, you buy casual use for the day for an access fee of £1 for each 24hr period.
  • It is advisable to thoroughly check the condition of bike, making sure that the saddle, brakes, lights and wheels are in good working order.
  • Choose your bike, making sure that LED indicator does not show that maintentance is required for that bike.
  • Insert your key in the terminal, or enter your casual use access code, and the amber LED will light.
  • When the light turns green, you can unlock your bike.
  • Do not forget to remove your membership key before you leave!

Returning your bike

  • When you return your bike, place it on an empty dock with no lights illuminated.
  • If the docking station you wish to return the bike to is full, check the docking terminal for nearby docking stations with availability. If you do this, you will get 15mins extra time to cycle to another docking station.

Tooltip information:

  • TFL: Transport for London
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