London Drum

Santander Cycles – How to hire a ‘Boris Bike’ in London

Santander hire cycle in a rack

What is a Santander Cycle?

Santander Cycles are a network of over 12,000 hire bikes spread all over London.

The idea is that you grab a cycle (or ‘Boris Bike’, after Boris Johnson, the Mayor of London who introduced them) from one of the cycle racks and ride it from A to B, and then drop it off at the next one.

There are more than 780 racks spread across 38 sq miles (100 sq km) of London, from Shepherd’s Bush in the west to Canary Wharf in the east, and Camden Town in the north to Wandsworth Town south of the river.

You have to be over-18 to buy a ticket, over-14 to ride them, and you need to provide your own helmet.

How much does a Santander Cycle cost?

The cost of a Santander Cycle depends on how long you ride it:

Cost to hire a Santander Cycle
Time travelled Price
Less than 30 minutes £1.65
Each 30 minutes thereafter £1.65
Note: Prices are correct as of

If you fail to return the bike within 24-hours then you will be charged £300 in lost fees.

How do you pay for a Santander Cycle?

There are two different ways to pay for a Santander Cycle: you can either register on TFL’s website beforehand or download their app (iOS and Android). You can also just pay on the day with a bank card at the docking station.

It’s not possible to pay by cash or Oyster card. And you can’t use bank cards loaded on to mobile phones or watches either.

What are the benefits of registering as a member?

  • Members can get a record of their most recent journeys and charges
  • The release codes can be sent straight to your phone, so you don’t have to use the terminals
  • It has a live map showing cycle availability and where the nearest empty docking space is
  • It has an interactive journey planner containing all the train stations, street names and landmarks

Can you buy a monthly subscription?

Monthly subscriptions are available for regular users, such as people using them to commute to work, for example.

Monthly subscription – You can buy a monthly subscription for £20 which allows you to make an unlimited number of 60-minute journeys for 30 days.

Yearly subscription – You can also buy a yearly subscription for £120, which allows you to make an unlimited number of 60-minute journeys for 365 days.

If your ride lasts longer than 60-minutes then you’ll have to pay an extra £1.65 for each additional period of 60 minutes (or part thereof).

Can you get a discount for hiring a cycle?

Cycle to work discount – If you’re using the bike to cycle to work every day then the City Bike Hire Scheme will save you up to £37.80. You can apply to join at​city-bike-hire.

24-hour access for NHS workers – NHS workers get free access for any journey under 30 minutes. Contact your NHS comms team for more information.

25% off for students – If you’re studying in London and you’re aged 18-or-over then you can purchase a yearly membership for the discounted rate of £67.50. You can find more information by logging into Student Beans.

How do you get a hire cycle out of the rack?

You can get a cycle out of the rack in three easy steps.

Step 1: Pay the access fee – The first thing you need to do is pay the access fee to get a 5-digit release code. The easiest way to do this is by paying online through the app, which will send the release code straight to your phone, but if you don’t have the app then walk up to the docking station terminal and touch the screen. Select ‘Hire a cycle’ and follow the on-screen instructions.

You can pay with contactless bank cards (debit or credit cards), but you can’t use cash, Oyster cards, or contactless devices like mobile phones or watches.

Step 2: Enter the release code – Before taking a bike out check that its tyres, brakes and bell are working okay… but don’t take too long because you need to enter the code within ten minutes of receiving it. You might want to adjust the saddle’s height as well. (Note: If you’re a regular user then it’s worth memorising the number setting on the side of the saddle stem, so you can quickly adjust it next time.)

Once you’re happy with a bike press any button on the keypad to wake it up. Then type in your release code. When the green light comes on, pull out the bike.

If the bike’s being a bit stubborn then lift up the saddle and gently drop the bike, or try bouncing the back wheel up and down a bit.

Step 3: Ride the bike – Off you go!

What happens if the bike is faulty?

If you start riding the bike and discover that it’s faulty then return it to the rack and press the ‘fault’ button within ten seconds of docking it. TFL also recommend turning the saddle backwards to alert other users that there’s a problem with it.

You can then go up to the terminal and get a new release code for no extra charge, provided that your original access period is still valid (which would have been ten minutes from when you got it). You’ll also have to wait five minutes from the time you took out the first bike.

How do you return a hire bike to the rack?

Once you’ve completed your journey it’s very important that you return the bike to a rack. Don’t just abandon it because you’ll be charged up to £300 in lost fees – they have your bank card remember! Just find an empty rack and push the bike in. The light will turn green once it has been successfully accepted.

If all of the spaces in the rack are full (quite a likely occurrence), then you can use the ‘No docking point free’ option on the terminal to find the nearest available space. Hopefully it will only be a couple of streets away. You will then be given an extra fifteen minutes to ride the bike to the that rack.

If you’ve definitely pushed the bike in but the green light refuses to appear then try ringing their Contact Centre on 0343 222 6666 for assistance (charges apply).

Is there a map of all the docking stations?

You can view a map of all the docking stations on the official app, or you can use TFL’s online map at​modes/​cycling.

Google Maps and Apple Maps also show the location of the docking stations if you zoom in close enough.

Cycling safety and Blaze laserlights

The cycle’s lights will come on automatically as soon as you start pedalling, and they also have Blaze laserlights installed at the front to increase a rider’s visibility.

Blaze laserlights project a bright green cycle logo onto the road about six metres ahead of your bike in low-light conditions, allowing drivers and pedestrians to see you coming.

Bear in mind that the light will switch off again if you’ve been stationary for more than two minutes.

Your comments and questions

Gabriel I tried to ride one for the first time yesterday, just a have a try and I have to admit that it was quite hard work. Maybe that is because I'm not used to riding a bicycle and all my muscles have withered away since I last rode one, but I am still a little bit achy. I don't think I'm going to try exercising again, if this is how it makes you feel!

Anne We hired a Santander Cycle at the weekend and it was great fun! They are nice and comfortable and we didn't have any problem finding a parking space. We went all over London which is full of cyclists, so there is always someone to file behind on busy roads, because I don't really like riding a bike in traffic because I get scared. But we cycled everywhere and stopped to have something to eat in Hyde Park and it was lovely.

Claire I would like to hear from people who have actually used one, and what are their thoughts. Are they comfortable to ride? Can you cycle around on them all day and not feel all achy the next day? And lastly (sorry for so many questions!) is it safe to cycle around in London? I am happy to cycle around where I live, but the traffic in London does worry me. Thankyou!

Alan They are perfectly fine for a couple of hours. The traffic can be bad but we went out for a Sunday morning ride, so it wasn't bad at all. There are lots of new cycle lanes in central London that can only be used by cycles and it's not possible for cars to encroach on them

PHH Hated them. They are big clunky, boxey behomiaths that made my legs ache the next morning. I will never use them again

cyclist I used them for a while but then I bought my own bike. I was going to cycle to work because I live near one of the bike racks but I worked out that it's quite expensive if you do it every day. You may as well just spend a few hundred pounds on your own bike, which is what I ended up doing. But they can be useful because you don't mind if they get dirty or scratched because I am always worrying about banging my bike against a bus or a car when I'm weaving through the traffic on my new bike.

Fred Scott After Brexit you can't call them Boris bikes any longer. Also it was the Labour party's idea before he got in as mayor!

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