Not going too well, is it, chaps? As the existing problems continue, the date for casual user access to the Mayor’s cycle hire scheme has been delayed, yet again, until the end of the year.

Kulveer Ranger, apparently, has been trying to put a brave face on it, hence the title of this post.

Two hire cycles were stolen from Waterloo yesterday as Serco attempted to cope with the continuing commuter surge. The system needs casual users to redistribute the bicycles in between the rush hours, but casual users aren’t yet permitted to use the scheme as Serco apparently:

faces major headaches making the Borisbike system work with credit cards (for casual users and tourists). First there’s the issue about the £150 deposit. Then there’s the potential problem about which bike is released from the docking station (a code will have to be punched in at the docking point holding the cycle).

Curious, as the London scheme has been imported wholesale [PDF] from Montreal. If you scroll down these photos you can see a BIXI cycle hire pay station:

A close-up of the pay station. You swipe your credit card, then the station prints out a small paper with a three digit code. You use the code to unlock a bike.

The software already exists, so why are Serco utterly unable to modify and implement it?

As these photos show, a visitor to Montreal found that docking station after docking station was full and saw no hire bikes in use, contrary to public claims for the BIXI scheme. This same visitor makes the very interesting observation:

“BIXI is not financially threatened, and at over 1 million riders in its inaugural year, it has a very solid ridership base to build on. “

Well, that is the claim of the City, but the City also has a vested interest in trying to sell their system around the world so who knows what is the truth?
They invested a LOT of money in creating that bicycle style, and would love for it to spread around the world. All I know is what I saw on two trips, and it did not look widely used to me. Sorry if I am doubtful, but in this particular case I do not believe everything I read…I was truly astounded that so few bikes were missing from the stations I saw every day

It would seem that the Montreal cycle hire system has not been without its faults, some of which mirror the experiences of users of the London scheme, such as overcharging and lack of docking spaces.

A commenter on the Montreal scheme makes an observation which could well be applied to our own Mayor:

Although it is a nice initiative in theory, I believe the real motivation for this project is not solely for ‘green’ reasons. I highly suspect that the Mayor saw an opportunity to give his administration a much needed boost to its PR, and make money in the process. Unlike some of the European models Bixi claims to be basing itself upon, it is anything but free for short trips.

Which reminds me that London taxpayers are still being denied evidence of the business case for the cycle hire scheme.

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