Lime bikes to overtake Boris bikes in London hire race

 (ES/Gareth Richman)
(ES/Gareth Richman)

They're good enough for Harry Styles and James Corden — and are proving increasingly popular with Londoners as a whole.

Lime bikes, the white and green e-bikes that can be found on virtually every street corner in central London, are on the verge of overtaking Boris bikes to become the most popular hire bikes in the capital.

Usage numbers have increased 10 per cent a month since Lime launched in London five years ago. By comparison, the popularity of Transport for London’s Boris bikes has fallen by a third since Mayor Sadiq Khan raised the hire charges a year ago.

Latest figures from TfL show the Santander-sponsored bikes were hired 2,167,024 times between April and June this year — down 34 per cent on the 3.3 million hires over the same three-month period a year ago. There were more than a million fewer Boris bikes hired in 2022-23 compared with the previous year, and the scheme looks likely to fall well short of its 11.8 million hire target for this financial year.

Lime policy director Hal Stevenson declined to claim pole position, saying he was simply happy to see more Londoners on bikes.

“It’s about increasing the overall rate of cycling in London,” he told the Standard. “Whether it’s Lime bikes, Santander Cycles or other shared bikes, that is a good outcome. If you live or work in London, you can see the level of demand on the street and how much of a role we are playing to deliver these targets. You can see how popular Lime is.”

TfL blamed “a significant amount of inclement weather” for the drop in Boris bike hires— as well as higher charges. It said: “Hires from casual customers continue to be lower than anticipated following the tariff change.”

Last October, annual subscriptions increased from £90 to £120. A 30-minute hire costs £1.65 for a conventional bike and £3.30 for an e-bike. By comparison, it costs £5.99 to hire a Lime bike for an hour, and the minutes can be used over three days.

The TfL scheme, launched by Boris Johnson in 2010 in his first term as mayor, has 12,000 conventional bikes and 500 e-bikes. Lime’s all-electric bike fleet is believed to be broadly similar to TfL’s total.

Between January 2019 and March this year, more than 12 million trips were made on Lime bikes by 1.25 million different customers. Usage levels between this April and June have not been released, but Mr Stevenson said: “Almost one in 10 Londoners have taken a trip on a Lime bike.”

Lime has struck deals with Westminster, Kensington and Chelsea, Lewisham and Haringey councils for roadside parking bays, to tackle bikes being abandoned on pavements.

More are expected to be announced by the end of the year,including Wandsworth and Barking and Dagenham, meaning Lime will have contractswith 15 boroughs.

Nickie Aiken, the Tory MP for the Cities of London and Westminster, has complained about the number of Lime bikes blocking pavements.

She posted a picture on Twitter/X showing dozens of Lime bikes in St James’s Square, and said: “I hope all those who dumped these bikes will be held responsible.”

In Kensington and Chelsea, users – including those on Tier and Forest e-bikes - will continue to be charged unless they park in a dedicated space.

“Having the right density of parking locations is critical,” Mr Stevenson said. “London is a fantastic market in shared e-bikes. We have seen huge growth in London – 10 per cent increase month on month every year since we launched five years ago.

“The usage and demand is there. As we sign up more and more boroughs, our fleet is growing.”

Asked if Lime had ambitions to operate in all 33 boroughs, he said: “We are really ambitious about how far we can expand in London.

“We think that, provided there is a commitment to build infrastructure and suitable places for parking, we can have a really successfulservice across the city.”