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London’s rental bikes: a (wobbly) history

Isabelle Aron

From Boris bikes to Beryl Bikes (and everything in between) – the history of rental bikes in London has been a rocky ride.

July 2010: Santander Cycles

Barclays Cycle Hire was the OG London bike scheme. The blue two-wheelers had a red makeover in 2015 and became Santander Cycles. You know them as ‘Boris bikes’, but – whisper it – they weren’t even his idea.

April 2011: Brompton

The London-made, commuter-friendly folding bike is a firm favourite but did you know that Brompton also runs a cycle-hire scheme? It launched in 2011 and has 13 docking stations, including ones at King’s Cross and Peckham Rye.

July 2017: oBike

You wait years for one dockless bike scheme then four come along at once. That’s right, 2017 saw them take over, starting with oBike, you know, the grey and yellow ones that ended up in some unlikely spots, like on an island in Victoria Park.

September 2017: Ofo

Confusingly, another yellow dockless bike scheme launched in London just two months after oBike. Ofo was rolled out in five London boroughs, but in January 2019 it went the way of its brightly coloured predecessor.

September 2017: Urbo

If your postcode isn’t E17, you may have missed the launch of Urbo, the Irish company that dropped off 250 bright green dockless bikes in Waltham Forest. No prizes for guessing that they also left London after about a year in the capital. Yep, there’s a recurring theme here.

September 2017: Mobike

Mobikes, mo’ problems? Not to be confused with oBike, the silver and orange Mobike was the fourth scheme to get pedalling in the Great Dockless Bike Summer of 2017.  And, despite its subsequent rather rocky ride in the capital, it’s the only one still standing.

December 2018: Lime

Feeling lazy? Lime is London’s first e-cycle scheme. The electric-motor-assisted green bikes do (some) of the hard work for you. They’re available in Brent, Ealing, Bromley, Croydon, Islington and Bexley.

May 2019: Jump

Every time a new bike scheme launches, it’s hailed as ‘Uber for bikes’, so it was only a matter of time before Uber launched one. It kicked off in May this year with 350 red e-bikes that you can book via an app.

June 2019: Freebike

Is it a regular bike? Is it an e-bike? It’s both! Launched in the City, the fluorescent-yellow and black Freebikes can be rented as pedal bikes or electric bikes. They flash when they’re taken out of their operational area to stop them being dumped around the city.

June 2019: Beryl Bikes

Also new to the Square Mile? – Beryl Bikes. These teal green hybrid bikes are dockless but have to be returned to parking bays, which should mean they won’t end up on islands.

Want to get on yer bike? 11 brilliant bike rides from London

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