London bike use soars as workers ride out recurring Tube strikes

An all-time annual high of 12 million trips were taken on Santander Cycles in the last year. PHOTO: BLOOMBERG

LONDON (BLOOMBERG) - Rides on London's public bike-rental network have hit record levels in each of the past nine months as subway strikes blight the city's public transport system.

An all-time annual high of 12 million trips were taken on Santander Cycles in the last year, according to Transport for London data. On strike days, thousands of commuters get to work using the hired bikes, which can be picked up and dropped off at different docking stations around the city.

"The cycle hire scheme plays an important role in ensuring Londoners have as many transport options as possible," a TfL spokesperson said. "During strike action, TfL provides additional staffed Santander Cycles hubs to guarantee customers can hire and dock bikes."

Commuter chaos

About 10,000 London Underground workers will walk out on Tuesday (June 21) in a row over pensions and job losses, part of the UK's biggest outbreak of nationwide public transport industrial action since 1989.

The strikes could cost the economy almost £100 million ($170 million), with London dealt the biggest blow, according to the Centre for Economics and Business Research.

On June 6, it was a familiar scene across the capital as workers returned from the Platinum Jubilee holiday. The Tube's Victoria, Circle and Waterloo & City lines were closed due to strikes, with limited services on the Piccadilly, Central, District and Bakerloo routes.

A total of 43,400 bike rides were taken that day, the highest weekday amount by at least 4 per cent.

More than half of those trips were made by non-members, compared with much closer margins on the other weekdays, a sign that commuters opted to cycle as a last resort.

The Santander Cycles sponsorship, which is operated by TfL, will run until at least May 2025.

During that period, the project will be expanded to new areas of the capital, with the introduction of e-bikes to the fleet for the first time from next summer.

"Huge numbers of people have taken up cycling since the pandemic," said Mr David Eddington, head of cycle hire at TfL. "We are determined to keep Londoners cycling and build on this further."

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