Demand for Cycle-hire in London

Demand for Cycle-hire in London

The Challenge

City-bike schemes have come of age with the advent of affordable and effective electronic tracking, charging and management systems. Since the late 1990s a number of providers, notably JC Decaux and Clear Channel, have implemented large city-bike schemes in a number of European capitals and major cities, including Paris, Barcelona, Lyon, Brussels, Berlin, Stuttgart and Frankfurt. There was considerable political momentum for such a scheme in London.

However, as a new mode of transport with little associated published research, developing a Business Case, and demand model for such a cycle hire scheme broke new ground. Transport for London (TfL) needed an assessment of the viability of implementing a city-bike scheme in central London. The scheme was to be established in central London, but where should the 400 docking stations go? What should the membership and daily charging regimes be?; And how could supply be consistently managed to meet demand across all stations?

Boris Johnson

Mayor of London

« TI want London to be a genuinely cycle friendly city. I will introduce a central London Cycle Hire Scheme, so that Londoners will be able to hire a bike at convenient locations across central London. This will provide a genuinely sustainable alternative to the car and encourage more Londoners to cycle. »


SYSTRA managed a research study to predict the likely behavioural response of Londoners to the introduction of a city-bike scheme. The study included large scale surveys of Londoners to identify who might consider using the scheme and which journeys they were most likely to take, and stated preference techniques to help us understand how tariff structures might affect their choices.

We used our data to develop a user-friendly, intuitive spreadsheet-based model to predict likely demand for the new cycle-hire scheme under a variety of different scenarios. The model could identify demand for cycle-hire in terms of number and duration of trips, diversion levels from each existing mode of transport, where and when the bikes would be most needed and likely revenue implications for different tariff structures.

Our model was used by TfL to determine the ideal type of cycle-hire scheme for maximising the number of hirings per day and to help forecast where and when demand would be highest so that the contractor could intervene to pick up cycles where there was excess and redistribute them more effficiently.

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