Renting a bike with Transport for London’s (TfL) Santander Cycle Hire scheme is not only one of the most pleasant ways to travel around the back streets of London, it’s also one of the cheapest (the same price as a bus fare).
Approximately 12,000 bikes are available to rent 24 hours a day, all year round. You can hire a bike from any of the 800 docking stations and return it anywhere on the network.
The three-speed bikes are pretty sturdy. They come with a bell, front basket and a chain guard. The front and back lights come on when you start pedalling and the seat height is easily adjustable.
How much does it cost?
Unfortunately, the free under 30-minutes ride deal was scrapped in September 2022.
- £1.65 per 30-minutes
You don’t have to specify the time you intend to use the bike. The fee for usage is taken from your debit or credit card the next day.
How to hire a bike
You have to be 18 or over to pay for a bike, and over 14 to ride one. You also need a credit or debit card– cash is not accepted.
There are two ways to hire a bike. At a docking station terminal or via an app (the easiest way).
At a docking station
- At the docking station terminal (the tall column near the bikes), touch the screen and insert a credit or debit card into the slot. Remove your card and select the 24-hour option.
- Re-insert your card and enter your PIN number details. The machine will print a receipt with a 5-digit cycle release code. The time on this receipt is the start of your access period.
- Enter the release code on the left-hand pad next to a docked bike at a bike. The pads are touch-sensitive and there’s no ‘beep’ when you enter the numbers.
- An amber light will flash. That means the code is being checked. Wait until the green light flashes, pull out your bike and go.
- When you’ve finished your trip, push the bike back into the docking station. Check that the green light is illuminated so TfL know you’re returned it.
Every time you take a bike within an access period, you need to get a new cycle release code. Insert the same payment card and another 5-digit code is issued. You need to wait at least 5 minutes between docking a bike and hiring another one.
Via a the Santander cycle hire app
Smartphone users can now use an ios or android app to hire and pay for a bike. You need to set up an account and provide your debit/credit number.
Using the app does not reserve a bike. You still only have 10 minutes to use the release code, so make sure you’re near the docking station when you use it.
How to find a Cycle Hire docking station
The docking stations in central London (zone 1) are usually no more than 300 to 500 metres from each other.
TfL have a simple docking station tool to find your closest docking station or view them on a map.
Cycle hire apps
It’s worth downloading the offical ios or android app. It shows live info on the number of bikes and spaces at each each docking station.
- Use the release code within 10 minutes of printing. It can only be used to hire a bike from that particular docking station.
- If a docking station is full when you want to return a bike, check the map on the terminal; it shows the nearest docking stations. Touch the ‘no docking point free?’ button and you’ll be given 15 minutes extra for free.
- Bike chains and locks are not included. According to the terms & conditions you’re not allowed to use one anyway. There’s a £300 charge if you don’t return a bike.
- If there’s a fault with your bike, take it to the nearest docking station, press the ‘fault’ button (the orange button with a spanner). Enter your payment card and you’ll be given a code for a replacement bike.
- If you live in London, monthly and annual membership is available and includes unlimited rides of up to 60 minutes.