Alternative bike hire scheme launched in London

Peer-to-peer option is cheaper for longer journeys

Byke offers an alternative to London's Barclays Cycle Hire scheme

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London’s Barclays Cycle Hire scheme was launched amid great fanfare on Friday and already has more than 20,000 members, with its 5,000 bikes being used over 14,000 times by the end of the weekend.

But it’s not the only option if you need a bike for the day in the British capital. A new peer-to-peer project allows you to go online or pick up your phone to find someone who’s willing to rent their own machine out.

Byke is billed as “a pioneering bike sharing scheme believed to be the first of its kind in the world”. Owners who want to rent out their bike register it with saying where and when it’s available.

Renters must pay Byke £3.50 a day plus a deposit of between £20 and £100 (depending on the bike). This works out more expensive than the Transport for London scheme for short journeys (£1 access fee, first 30 minutes free) but much more economical for longer trips (a full day’s use of a Barclays bike costs £51).

Peter Abrahamson, developer of Byke, points out another advantage of the scheme: “Bike owners, with the Byke service, can provide for commuters who are coming from further afield in places the TfL scheme [which only covers the central Zone 1] won’t be available.” 

Customers must return the machine by the end of the day, at which point Byke returns their deposit and shares the hire fee with the bike’s owner.

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Research by Going Going Bike, a new bicycle auction site, suggests that 37 percent of households have at least one spare bike knocking around, which means there are some 1.5 million bikes going unused in London.