London bike hire numbers blamed on price rises
Price rises and bicycle docking problems are being blamed for a 20% fall in the use of London's public bike hire scheme compared with last year.
Transport for London (TfL) figures show that despite an increase in the number of bikes available, total usage fell by 20% in May.
London Assembly Member Caroline Pidgeon said TfL must ensure bikes were where Londoners needed them.
TfL said the issue of empty and full docking stations was being tackled.
The chief operating officer of surface transport, Garrett Emmerson, said of the Serco-run scheme: "In three of the first four months of the year usage has gone up.
"Usage is continuing to rise, so I don't think Londoners have fallen out with the scheme."
'No docking stations'
But from March to May 2012, there were 2,394,624 hires and in the same period a year later, 1,909,775.
TfL said that was due, in part, to the colder weather this year.
There are about 8,000 bikes available from 570 docking station across central and east London.
In January, 24-hour access increased from £1 to £2 and weekly access from £5 to £10.
Cyclist Ricardo Falconi, from Tower Hamlets, said: "It felt like a scheme that was the greenest mode of transport and using it four to five times a week it was cheap and accessible.
"Since the new year it's doubled in cost and I'm finding in east London that when you commute after work there are no docking stations.
"The other day I ended up cycling around for half an hour and ended up a mile away from home."
Liberal Democrat Ms Pidgeon said: "The bike hire scheme is a great idea but it is being let down by the poor contract running it which leaves many docking stations empty for up to eight hours a day and others full so that no-one can ever return a bike."
Mr Emmerson said there was "universal agreement" the original fees were "very low indeed", adding that the price rise was a "one-off substantial increase".
He said: "We've already negotiated with Serco to deliver something like a 20% reduction in the number of full and empty docking stations.
"We're driving hard to reduce the number of times that people will experience that because we understand it's a key driver of satisfaction with the scheme."
He said locations for more docks were being sought.