London to get shared e-bikes to boost cycling

31 May 2021

London’s shared bicycle scheme will receive e-bikes for the first time from next year, the city’s transport authority has announced.

From summer 2022, up to 500 electric assist bicycles will be added to the cycle fleet as part of a renewed sponsorship deal between Transport for London (TfL) and bank Santander that will run for the next four years.

The move comes amid an explosion in cycling in London in the past year, with the ‘Santander Cycles’ scheme seeing 18 out of its 20 busiest days since March 2020 and record monthly hires in April this year.

Removing barriers to cycling

It is hoped that the move will help break down barriers to cycling for some Londoners, including age, fitness or distance.

Mayor of London, 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.”

Other improvements are planned as part of the renewed partnership, including modernisation of the Santander Cycles app, cycle hire terminals and back-office systems along with a permanent annual discount for employees of the National Health Service (NHS), the UK’s public healthcare body.

Uptick in use

This offer comes after workers in key sectors such as the NHS were offered free access codes for the shared bicycles during the coronavirus pandemic.

The mayor added: “I’m so pleased that our city’s heroic keyworkers have accessed more than 100,000 free hires since we introduced the offer in March last year. I’m delighted that TfL is now developing a permanent discount for NHS workers as a token of appreciation.”

Registrations for annual memberships for the flagship cycle hire scheme increased by 22% from March 2020 to March 2021, and one-day registrations rose by almost 200% in the same period – the largest increase in the scheme’s history.

Andy Byford, TfL’s Commissioner, said: “Our popular cycle hire scheme has gone from strength to strength thanks to five successful years of partnership with Santander. Santander Cycles have been at the heart of a cycling revolution in the capital, and we look forward to expanding, electrifying and improving our offering with Santander, so even more Londoners and visitors can discover the benefits of cycling.”

Growing electrification

London’s cycle hire scheme has been operational since 2010, and proposals for the introduction of e-bikes have been on the table since 2013.

The UK capital will join other European cities in adding e-bikes to their fleets with the aim of broadening the appeal of cycling. The Vélib scheme in Paris received a new fleet of bikes in 2018, with three in 10 equipped with electric assist.

And in Brussels, users of the Villo public bike hire scheme can pay an annual supplement for a battery to use in a growing number of e-bikes available across the city.