Satisfaction levels with the capital’s cycle hire scheme has fallen, with users unhappy about the recent price increase and bike & docking station availability, according to internal Transport for London polling.
In November Mayor Boris Johnson and TfL announced that the annual membership fee would double in January 2013 from £45 per year to £90, the first increase since the scheme opened in 2010.
Cycle Hire journeys are free for the first 30 minutes, meaning many users pay no additional charge for their journey.
The Mayor has previously predicted the increase will see users contribute around £6m more to the scheme’s running costs which are heavily subsidised by fare-payers using other transport modes.
Transport for London commissions regular ‘waves’ of polling to capture the opinion of scheme members. A presentation based on ‘wave 5’ polling and prepared for TfL managers reports that “prior awareness of the January price increase is high” and that “ratings of value for money…have decreased”.
Of those saying they are dissatisfied with the scheme’s value for money, 40% say it is “too expensive”, the biggest reason given, while 38% blame “poor availability of spaces” at docking stations.
The price hike is also the biggest reason given by the 20% of users not intending to renew their membership.
The report, which was released in response to an FOI request, states that the number of users saying they would recommend the scheme “has also decreased” to levels not seen since July 2011 when overall satisfaction fell to 63%.
It goes on to say: “There has been a significant increase in those saying they will not renew their membership when it runs out, mainly due to cost reasons and availability of bicycles and docking points”.
60% of poll respondents complained that “docking stations do not always work” while 58% said bikes “are not fixed quickly enough”.
Current overall satisfaction levels are at 69%, down from wave 4’s score of 70%.
Although the dip in that measurement is slight, the number of users awarding the scheme top marks (8-10) has fallen from 47% in wave 4 to 42% in wave 5.
However a majority of members say the scheme “makes a positive contribution to London”.
A separate internal TfL briefing dated May 2012 and also released under FOI shows the extent to which TfL’s granting of naming rights to Barclays has shaped public perception about the scheme’s finances.
According to the report, “Many (initially) assume the scheme is either breaking even or making a profit (assoc./sponsorship with Barclays is key here)”.
The briefing also reveals: “Customer assumption is that the scheme is benefiting TfL (financially and by association)” and that “most are unaware that BCH is subsidised”.
Despite the public’s perception, the scheme is expected to clock up losses of millions of pounds and TfL is now requiring London’s boroughs to contribute to its construction costs.
The widespread belief that the scheme is self-funding or profit generating is likely to be a key driver in dissatisfaction with the price increase.
Since June 2012 TfL has spent £112,275 on surveying scheme members.