5 facts about Boris bikes – and one example of unfair journalism

“The Independent” has recently published some interesting facts about London’s Barclay’s Cycle Hire scheme. Unfortunately, my dear colleagues did a rather poor job interpreting those figures.

Boris Bikes at Southwark Street in London (Photo by Green Lane from Wikimedia Commons)

According to the Independent, which draws on figures from Transport for London (TfL) since the launch of the “Boris Bikes” in August 2010:

  • seven million miles have been cycled
  • 100000 people have signed up (I’m one of them, BTW)
  • 3566 bikes (30 per day) have had to be repaired
  • 180 bikes have been vandalised
  • 10 bikes have been stolen

To me, these figures underscore the huge success of the scheme given that here had been widespread concerns about theft and vandalism prior to the launch of the cycling hire scheme. But since only bad news are good news, my dear colleagues at the “Independent” are trying to give a negative spin to those figures:

Two-thirds of London’s “Boris bikes” have had to undergo repairs in their first six months of operation. (…) Critics claimed that the high rate of repairs was a result of TfL opting for “unwieldy machines” over more sophisticated bikes.

I think this is quite an unfair and distorted interpretation of those numbers. Are  3566 repairs since August 2010 really resembling a “high rate of repairs”?  As we have also learned by the TfL figures, the Boris bikes have been done 7 million miles since August. This means there are on average  0.0005 repairs per mile traveled (In fact the real figure is much lower because we’re only talking about the bikes which actually had an issues).

I’ve done around 1500 miles on my Brompton since August 2010 and had four punctures which equals 0.0027 repairs per mile. Perhaps I should use the Boris bikes more often…

2 thoughts on “5 facts about Boris bikes – and one example of unfair journalism

  1. Good post. Welcome to the world of bike blogging!

    1 repair every 1962 miles is probably a better way of expressing your point. I think most cycle commuters would be happy with such a rate of servicing!

    The durability of the bikes is definitely the aspect of the scheme that TfL has got most right. However, they’ve got a fair few things wrong – from the slow launch (compared to the Big Bang of Velib in Paris) to the technical glitches, over-charging errors etc, and one might say the absurdly low gearing of the bikes.

    But the biggest shortcoming is that the scheme lacks scale and density compared to Paris.

  2. Jack, congratulations for making the first comment. Many thanks!

    I absolutely agree with you. There is a lot of room for improvement with regards to the Boris bike scheme, scale and density being one of them. The shoddy website is another issue as well as the ill conceived billing policy (the one key per account issue)… Hang on, I’ll write on that soon.


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