London hire bikes used for 43,000 journeys in first week

Docking issues and grumbles over keys fail to mar successful launch

London's new public cycle hire system has enjoyed huge success in its first week, with its bikes being used for more than 43,000 journeys.

Since its launch at 6am last Friday, membership of the scheme has risen to 32,000 and 16 extra docking stations have been opened. Some 331 are now in operation, with another 70-odd to be built over coming weeks.

While the Barclays Cycle Hire scheme has been introduced without major incident, there have been complaints about the access key system.

Keys cost £3 each and cut down the time taken to unlock a hire bike. On top of that, there's an access fee (£1/24 hours, £5/week, £45/year) plus usage charges (first 30 minutes are free, then it ranges from £1/hour to £50/24 hours).

Many members have bought multiple keys, either to hand out to friends or family, or perhaps so they can leave one at home and one at work. Some have been surprised to find that they are charged the access fee for every key they own, even if they only use a single key to hire a single bike.

One angry user told the BBC: "This is absolutely barking. I thought the whole point of ordering extra keys is so friends and family can use them, but not all at the same time."

Transport for London (TfL) told BikeRadar that they had been expecting a few "teething troubles" with the scheme and the key issue was being looked into. In the meantime, anyone who has bought multiple keys and no longer wants them should get in touch with their contact centre (0845 026 3630).

Another issue is that some people have not been docking the bikes correctly at the end of their journeys. David Brown, TfL's managing director of surface transport, said: "When they re-dock their bikes, customers must get a green light and click at the end of every trip. If they don’t, we won’t know they’ve finished their journeys, and they risk being charged more in future.”

Despite these grumbles, the scheme's launch has been an overwhelming success. Mayor of London Boris Johnson said: “I'm incredibly proud of the positive manner in which Londoners have embraced our scheme and the patience they have shown when minor problems have cropped up.

"They continue to sign up in droves and it's clear their appetite for the capital’s cycling revolution is far from sated. These gleaming blue bikes and docking stations have transformed our streets and have put us well on the way to becoming the best big cycling city in the world.”

People wishing to use the system during its first month of operation need to be members – you can sign up at www.tfl.gov.uk/barclayscyclehire. Organisers hope this will allow them to monitor usage patterns and responses, after which they'll open access to casual users. You must be 18 years old to sign up to the scheme, and 14 or older to use a Cycle Hire bike.

About 5,000 bikes are now available across 330 locations in central London. So far the five most popular docking stations for hiring bicycles have been: Wardour Street and Soho Square, both in Soho; Finsbury Circus, Liverpool Street; Hop Exchange, Borough; and Bankside Mix, in Bankside. You can check the locations of all live sites at www.tfl.gov.uk/barclayscyclehire.

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