With just under 11 million hires in 2021, the London cycle hire scheme had its busiest year since it was set up in 2010, boosted by people switching from trains and buses to bikes.

The cycle hire scheme registered 10.9 million hires in 2021, surpassing the previous best target set in 2018 by 371,000 hires. More than 1 million individual customers used the cycle hire scheme last year, the first time this milestone has been reached in a calendar year, and 178,000 new members joined the scheme in 2021, a seven per cent increase on 2020 and more than double that of any year prior to 2020.

The pandemic also saw the average duration of cycle rides increase, averaging 19 minutes per ride between 2012 and 2019, and jumping noticeably to an average of 25 minutes in 2020.

Office workers returning after the summer holidays helped contribute to the record year, with September and October both seeing more than one million hires over the month. In September, TfL saw the highest volume of Santander Cycles commuter hires since March 2020, with an average 7,573 daily hires made between 7am and 10am on weekdays.

The cycle hire scheme launched on 30th July 2010 with 315 docking stations and 5,000 bikes across eight London boroughs, and a decade later, the cycle hire scheme has more than 750 docking stations and over 14,000 bikes.

The scheme will be expanded this year, with eight new docking stations being added to Southwark, and next year will see 500 electric bikes introduced into the scheme from next summer.

During the pandemic, cycling levels were boosted overall, from 21 per cent of Londoners in 2019/20 to 27 per cent in 2020/21. TfL research last year found that one in five people who don’t cycle are now actively considering cycling, which could increase participation levels to more than 40 per cent of Londoners.

Since May 2020, more than 100km of new or upgraded cycle lanes have been built or are under construction, and this has lead to more cycling in general. TfL data shows cycling during the pandemic increased by 22 per cent in outer London compared to spring 2019, with a seven per cent rise in inner London.


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  1. Natalia says:

    Ian, do you have any idea how the decisions on the installation of the new stations are made? I can’t understand the logics behind the current distribution of the stations on London map: the bikes are available as far to the east as Stratford, and as far to the south as Brixton (and current discussions are about Peckham), but cut at Camden Town and Little Venice in the north. Also, for years Canada Water was ignored, with the stations finally installed only after lockdown.

    • ianVisits says:

      The expansion is part-funded by the councils – who generally get the money from property developers. If the council won’t stump up the cash, then the cycle hire scheme won’t be expanded into those areas.

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