London Bike Hire – encouraging figures from this summer

As I’m sure you don’t need me to remind you, London now has two major east-west and north-south routes, along with upgrades to sections of key routes and radical changes to a main road route linking to the east. In short, London has finally built large elements of cycling infrastructure using separation in space and time that finally start to feel, and look like a network. Now, I am still concerned at how that becomes a genuine network, but let’s just take a moment to see if that feeling is being reflected in some data.

The London Bike Hire scheme (now sponsored by Santander) publish a regular tracking survey which each quarter asks their users what they think of the scheme and cycling in London. We have now seen the first wave of research since the fuller launch of the major superhighways, and it looks quite encouraging.

First, the figures for casual users.


Wow. A full 9% point increase in the perception of London as a city for cycling – 72% agreeing, 14% disagreeing and 14% being neutral (though I do find it hard to imagine being neutral on cycling in London at the moment!). And remember, that’s from schemes that aren’t complete, and don’t as yet form an obvious network. This is encouraging, and you can also reasonably say that the perception of the city seems to also boost opinion of the effect of the bike hire itself. It’s a shame the survey doesn’t ask what people believe has made the big difference and only prompts about the bike hire scheme, so we should be cautious at reading too much into the data.


And then the figures for members only:

Santander Cycles Members Survey Q2 2016/17

Again, there is a 9% increase on ‘London is a city for cycling’, though the methodology is different (0-10 scale rather than agree/disagree) and scores are incomparable. That 9% increase only takes those agreeing to 30% of members (versus 72% of casual users). I would believe that members of the hire scheme (who may well just have a bike key, but still use it on a pay as you go basis) have more awareness of cycling in a broader area of London over a longer term basis, and that would depress those scores.

What is great about the members survey though is that it shows a larger and larger % of cycle hire scheme members agreeing that ‘There are good facitilies for cycling in London’. Now, this doesn’t ask about a network, though you could take the ‘Cycling is a safe way of getting about’ as a proxy for that. In which case perhaps the growing difference between the two statements is an expression of seeing some high quality routes but not yet seeing enough to deal with the journeys people are making.

There is though, a more specific question which asks about what’s changed for the better whilst being a hire bike scheme member. I view this as being a split in respondents between those who answer about how they behave and what they experience/want.


So, some interesting little trends. Hopefully this is just the start of much more to come. These surveys conducted in July only show some changes amongst the demographic that was already cycling in London. We need to see much wider surveys over the long-term to see how the broader population of London reacts to a growing network of high quality cycle routes. Thankfully TfL surveyed me and hopefully thousands of others last month as part of their usual annual cycling research (which is separate to that of the hire scheme). TfL publish this and other research for cycling (and walking) online here and what would a Transport geek’s Christmas be without the annual Travel in London reports? If the right infrastructure is delivered there can be yet more encouraging figures to come.


p.s. I also had a bit of a go at the bike hire statistics to see if I could make an interesting chart, with a trend that had not been seen before. This was as close as I got – a chart showing how growth varies across the week over the comparable months. It would appear that there is a growth across the working week that is stronger than that at the weekend, that’s not what happened with previous changes to the scheme that grew usage. Perhaps this is a sign of hire bikes now being a stronger option during rush hours? A few hours delving into a database of route data might explain that.

2 thoughts on “London Bike Hire – encouraging figures from this summer

  • If you happen to have the spreadsheet handy, could you do a graph of London bike hires by year, with day of the week? (I.e. swap the grouping on your last graph?)

    • Alex

      That’s possible, but I’ve also got a copy of the sample hire data so I’m going to look at that to see if there’s much of interest.

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