August 23, 2012 at 4:48 pm #75060
I would be really interested what you all thought of BCH implementing a new tariff where the first 60 minutes are free for registered users but the tariff stays the same for casual users?
I’ve analysed the pros and cons at some length of my blog here – http://twowheelsgood-fourwheelsbad.blogspot.co.uk/2012/08/60-minutes-free-for-boris-bike.html – and would be really interested to know whether you agree that it is a good idea?
GeorgeAugust 23, 2012 at 6:35 pm #85587
Hello George. Yes I agree with you very much and have read your blog post. It has surprised me that so little has been done to market the keys as opposed to casual use, because the keys are so much easier and reduce congestion at terminals. Another option I have thought of is increasing the casual fee to £2, which would incentivise key use but, unlike your scheme, not result in reduced revenue. The latest stats on the TfL website show that as many casual journeys are made each week as key journeys, which is very inefficient considering how long it takes to stand at the termianl and print out the codes.
On the issue of expanding the docking stations, useage is now almost 40,000 trips per day, and there is huge pressure on some stations. Many stand empty all day after the commuter rush. They should be made bigger, but also, with the western phase due next year, there should also be more stations in the existing zone as even now there are some areas which have very poor coverage.August 23, 2012 at 7:28 pm #85588
I would warn against increasing the casual fee to £2 because it reduces the (political) power of the Boris Bike to get non-cyclists cycling. I’ve expanded in detail on the importance of Boris Bikes in getting non-cyclists interested in cycling in London (primarily through that incredibly cheap £1 all-day access fee for casual use) here: http://twowheelsgood-fourwheelsbad.blogspot.co.uk/2012/08/why-all-london-cyclists-should-actively.html.
Also given the lengths people go (e.g. docking a bike at 29 minutes, waiting 5 minutes, then getting out another bike from the same station to complete their journey etc.) to keep journeys under 30 minutes (I think a ridiculously high proportion like 97% are…) I don’t believe that the reduced revenue which you rightly point out my scheme would result in, is that actually that significant at all (especially when compared to the overall TfL budget including CrossRail etc.). Essentially people are making 60 minute journeys for free now anyway. Changing the tariff to accept this fact will just mean there are many more of them, therefore more subscribers, therefore high income for the scheme and more government subsidy.August 23, 2012 at 8:16 pm #85589
Well I take your point, and you’re right that most people dock after 29 minutes (I used to until I realised £1 wasn’t really very much), but I don’t think a slightly higher charge for casual use would deter many people. My main goal would be to move more people to keys, and maybe at £2 the revenue generated would be able to fund new docks. I’m sure TfL have thought of all these things – it’s a shame they don’t formally engage with their users a bit more to see what we are thinking. MAugust 24, 2012 at 6:07 am #85590
I’ve found that, almost without exception, everyone I’ve mentioned the bike scheme to still thinks you *must* get a key first. And so don’t even think of trying it out.
Now that might be in my short-term advantage if they don’t use it, but hardly in London’s long-term advantage.
Some publicity on the scheme would help, saying you just need a bank card to try it out, but it’s quicker with a key. And I’d suggest that a number of key dispenser machines are put in strategic locations, in a similar fashion to the blank Oyster card dispensers in tube stations. (Shame the systems were not combined in the first place.)August 24, 2012 at 9:53 am #85591
The thing about the “lengths that people go to (e.g. docking a bike at 29 minutes, waiting 5 minutes, then getting out another bike from the same station to complete their journey etc.) to keep journeys under 30 minutes” is absolutely true.
Even if I had to wait 15 minutes, or walk to a different docking station, I would still do that. I’d wait half an hour and break my journey in two if I had to!
The people who have really made a profit are the shops and venues I now visit because the scheme has encouraged me to visit places I would never have thought to stop at before.August 24, 2012 at 12:34 pm #85592
I agree. Selling Keys and Yearly Subscriptions at Tube Stations would probably help. As would better publicity of how easy it is to use the scheme with ‘just a bank card’.
I disagree about the number of casual users though. I was at Hyde Park Corner at 7pm last night and there were over 10 different people queuing at the rental terminal to get a bike out! I think casual users are actually pretty high! They just need to expand the scheme in terms of both intensity and coverage, and extend the free period for registered users. Clearly TfL don’t understand the economic power of something being ‘free’ as opposed to £1!August 24, 2012 at 12:35 pm #85593
Yes exactly! ‘Even if I had to wait 15 minutes, or walk to a different docking station, I would still do that. I’d wait half an hour and break my journey in two if I had to!”. That is in my opinion, the majority view.
Changing the rental period to 60 minutes free would therefore have a negligible effect on rental income BUT would lead to a massive increase in use!August 24, 2012 at 12:44 pm #85594
I’m not sure an increase in use would necessarily benefit Barclays Cycle Hire (what do they gain out of increased usage that is non-chargeable?) It would however almost certainly benefit London.August 24, 2012 at 2:48 pm #85595
An increased usage would actually have a detrimental effect as more bikes would be in use at any one point in time – meaning less bikes free for othersAugust 24, 2012 at 3:41 pm #85596
True, we need many many more bikes and docking stations than we currently have. I have regularly seen groups of up to about 10 people (friends, work colleagues?) trying to go out on the bikes together. This was unexpected! Lots of people seem to want to try the bikes together.
Perhaps the answer is to extend the scheme within Central London?August 24, 2012 at 7:03 pm #85597
An increased usage would actually benefit BCH because it would mean that BCH could ask the government for more money (since more tax payers would be using the scheme) and ask Barclays for more sponsorship money.
This money could then be put into funding the expansion and intensification which radii8 rightly points out is necessary.August 24, 2012 at 7:11 pm #85598
The problem is that they are current operating at a £2-3mil loss. Boris has been given until the end of the 2013 financial year to sort it out… will be interesting!August 26, 2012 at 12:10 am #85599
Yeah I suppose that is a problem. But doen’t all publicly available transport (e.g. buses and trains) operate at a loss which is subsidised by the government? The tube and bus fares don’t by themselves pay for the tube and bus services. Since BCH is providing a form of public transport, it should therefore be entitled to the same principle of government subsidy (perhaps) rather than being self-sustaining? Moreover, since BCH is providing a form of public transport which helps two key government aims (lowering CO2 emissions and making people healthier/fitter) there is all the more reason for the government to feel it is worthwhile funding.
Also, I don’t know the answer to this question, but I would imagine that it is the norm for cycle-hire schemes to operate at a loss? The Velib in Paris almost certainly operates at a considerable loss given how many bikes they have had to replace due to theft or vandalism since 2007 (tens of thousands I believe… http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/V%C3%A9lib'#Theft_and_vandalism)August 27, 2012 at 3:04 pm #85600
^ btw I totally agree with this.
Additionally – the cycle scheme has been going, what nearly 2 years is it? It’s taken me this long using hired bikes to finally invest in my own bike. It took me over a year to save for my own bike. I definitely would not have invested my own cash and interest in a bike for commuting had the scheme not been there to support AND incentivise me. It takes about 2 years in my view. But that’s just my opinion.
I think there’s a lot of women like me – lots of my female colleagues (also not earning ‘megabucks’) we just need lots of encouragement and experience to get back on a bike. AND obviously infrastructure. I’ve found a route that incorporates infrastructure.
Once you’ve sold the idea that it can really be done – and regularly – it’s easy to encourage people to spend their money on a bike and its maintenane. Ultimately I believe the cycle hire scheme will get those who have been off a bike for years back on a bike until they are sold the idea to actually invest in their own. So you won’t see the benefits upfront – these are realised way down the line.
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