In an intriguing article carried in the Leicester Mercury (June 26), Hannah Richardson was given the task of reviewing Leicester City Council’s e-bike scheme, otherwise known as the Santander bikes. In her review, things did not go as smoothly as they might have done, but Richardson was lucky in that she was accompanied on her first journey by Janet Hudson, “the city council’s behaviour change project manager and member of the Active Travel Team,” who as the journalist put it “had kindly offered to show me the ropes.” As Richardson explained in her article:
“The App for the scheme – Ride on UK – has its glitches. While signing up is a reasonably straight-forward and standard process, when I first tried to use it to take out a bike it wouldn’t recognise that any were available. It took three attempts for the App to tell me it was because my Bluetooth wasn’t on. Had I been on my own, I may well have cut my losses and walked.
“And at the other end? The dock wouldn’t recognise that I was trying to return the bike and, while Janet tried slot after slot, I was paying by the minute on my journey. Eventually, she had to give up and call someone on her team to end the trip manually. Fortunately, I had someone with me who knew what they were doing. Had I been on my own, I would have struggled. The app was telling me to call the helpline, but the number for the helpline was nowhere to be seen. It transpired there was a very small sticker behind the saddle with the number on, not somewhere I would have thought to look.”
On the issue of pricing, it would seem that for the moment at least the cost for the cycle scheme will price many poorer people out from being able to make occasional use of the electric bikes. This is because if you fail to sign up for either a monthly or yearly package (£12 a month, or £60 a year) the cost of using the bikes is doubled.
If you buy into to the monthly or yearly scheme then a 20 minute journey costs 60p with each additional minute costing an additional 5p, but for those who do not buy such monthly or yearly passes the cost is £1.20 for the first 20 minutes and 10p a minute thereafter. Moreover, booking a docking station to park your bike at the end of your journey is currently free (until the end of June) but after June you will need to pay more in order to guarantee there is a free docking space into which to leave the bike.
When the e-bike was launched earlier this year by the City Council they noted in a press release that: “The £600,000 project is being funded by a partnership made up of Leicester City Council – following the council’s successful bid to the Department for Transport’s Transforming Cities fund – with sponsorship from Santander UK and additional investment from the operator, Ride On, and their delivery partner Enzen Global.” “The scheme, known as Santander Cycles Leicester, will eventually see 500 electric bikes available to hire from 50 locations across Leicester city centre.” That means that each bike on average costs £1,200.