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London Cycle Hire Scheme

London Cycle Hire SchemeRenting a bike with Transport for London’s (TfL) Santander Cycle Hire scheme is not only one of the most pleasant ways to travel around London, it’s also the cheapest. If you use the bikes for short journeys (under 30 minutes), you can ride the bikes for the whole day for £2.

Approximately 12,000 bikes are available to rent 24 hours a day, all year round. You can hire a bike from any of the 770 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?

There are two fees: a fee for hiring the bike and a usage fee.

1. Access fee

There’s a £2 ‘hire’ fee per 24 hours. (The 7 day hire fee is no longer available).

When you want to hire a bike, you pay the fee at one of the Cycle Hire terminals.

2. Usage fee

In addition to the access fee, there’s a charge for the length of time you hire the bike.

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.

Journeys up to 30 minutes are free. Make as many under-30 minute trips as you like in a 24 hour period and you’ll only be charged £2.

Usage Fees 2022
Up to 30 minutes FREE
Up to 1 hour £2
Up to 1 hour 30 minutes £4
Up to 2 hours £6
Up to 2 hours 30 minutes £8
Up to 3 hours £10
Up to 3 hours 30 minutes £12
Up to 4 hours £14
Up to 4 hours 30 minutes £16
Up to 5 hours £18
Up to 5 hours 30 minutes £20
Up to 6 hours £22
Up to 6 hours 30 minutes £24
Up to 7 hours £26

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 a smartphone app.

At a docking station

  1. 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.
  1. 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.
  1. 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.
  1. An amber light will flash. That means the code is being checked. Wait until the green light flashes, pull out your bike and go.
  1. 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 smartphone 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.

Online maps

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.

Useful tips

  • 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.
  • Make sure you dock your bike before the access period expires. There’s a £150 late return fee.
  • 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, you can become a member and pay a £90 access fee for 1 year. You still need to pay for usage.