Soon, you’ll see electric Boris Bikes on the streets of London.
Much like banana bread and knitting, cycling grew more popular over the past year, due largely to the impossibility of social distancing on Tubes and buses. Over the course of the pandemic, cycle shops have seen bikes selling out in record times, and London’s cycle hire schemes have seen record use. In fact, the Santander Cycles (or Boris Bikes, as they are oft known) had a record year in 2020, seeing an increase of 167% in bike hires compared to 2019. As a result, Santander have extended their sponsorship of TfL’s flagship cycle hire scheme until 2025, promising further expansions to new areas of London and the addition of e-bikes to the network from next summer.
Around 500 electric bikes will be introduced at first, in an effort to help break down “the barriers that stop some people from cycling, including fitness, age and journey length”. The scheme’s planned modernisation will also include the Santander Cycles app, cycle hire terminals, and back office systems for a better customer experience.
Though an uptick in cycle hire was to be expected during lockdown, March 2021 saw a major milestone in the history of the Santander Cycles scheme, surpassing an astonishing 100 million hires. Free journeys have also been offered to NHS staff and other key workers since the lockdown began in March 2020, with approximately 100,000 of those used during the pandemic. That offering will be extended with a permanent NHS discount available for annual memberships. Add in Sadiq Khan’s calls for increased cycling and walking as part of London’s Streetspace scheme, and you’ve got the recipe for a big expansion.
London currently has more than 750 docking stations and over 14,000 bikes available for hire, with recent additions found in Clapham, Bermondsey and Rotherhithe.
In a statement, Sadiq Khan said “Cycling has been a lifeline for many Londoners over the past year and I’m determined to make it even more accessible to help us rebuild as a cleaner and greener city. Santander Cycle hire is key to this, so I’m delighted that TfL will be rolling out the scheme’s first e-bikes in summer next year and expanding it to cover new parts of our city thanks to Santander’s continued support.”
In other biking news, a scenic 150-mile cycling route will open in Cornwall later this year.
Also published on Medium.