Guide to cycle share schemes

Two people are standing holding Human Forest e-bikes, green bikes with a black basket on the front and with the Human Forest logo. They are in an urban environment and wearing normal clothes and bike helmets.
Human Forest offers dockless e-cycles across London
There are numerous cycle share schemes all over the UK, allowing users to hire bikes for short journeys or to explore a new area. Cycling UK’s content officer Rebecca Armstrong provides a guide to what’s on offer

If you want to get more active, cycling is a great option, especially for short journeys that you usually drive but could easily cycle. Not everyone has access to a bike, though, and if you might not want to invest in one, especially if you’re only starting out. This is where public cycle share schemes come in.

These schemes can be described as any service in which cycles are provided for multiple users. The idea is that anyone can hire a cycle to make short trips rather than use the car or bus. An example might maybe travelling to the office or a tourist destination by making the final part of your journey by hire bike after having travelled into town on the train.

The benefits are obvious. Cycling improves physical health and psychological wellbeing. It saves money on fuel or public transport costs. Additionally, fewer motor vehicles on the road means less congestion, fewer fatal collisions, reduced emissions and cleaner air.

Types of schemes

There are essentially two types of cycle share schemes: docked and dockless. The most well-known example of the former is London’s Santander Cycles. Launched in 2010, this is now one of the biggest public cycle share schemes in Europe, with more than 12,000 cycles at around 800 docking stations; e-bikes were introduced in 2022.

Docking stations are placed at key locations around a town or city and at regular intervals in between. Cycles can be hired via an app or credit or debit card and can be picked up and dropped off at any docking station.

Benefits of docked bikes include better security, while the cycles are kept off the pavement. Drawbacks are that the stations are costly to build, require street space and are often far apart or full – although some schemes allow you to leave the cycles close to the docking station if it’s full.

A more recent addition, and addressing some of the limitations of docked bikes, are dockless schemes. These can either be located in virtual geo-fenced hubs with markings on the ground indicating where to pick up and leave the bikes, or ‘free-floating’ schemes using smart bikes which allow the cycles to be dropped off at any location within the scheme’s boundaries.

These schemes require users to download the relevant app to their smartphones. You find the hubs or individual bikes using the app and ‘unlock’ it to use the bike.


Many schemes are starting to use e-cycles, allowing for longer journeys in shorter journey times and opening up the service to more people, while some schemes are offering e-cargo bikes allowing people to transport goods. However, one major criticism of all schemes is that they currently only provide two-wheeled bicycles.

The schemes are also only in larger towns and cities. Arguably, they would be just as useful for people living in more rural areas – or even more so.

Diversifying both the cycles on offer and the locations covered would make these schemes more accessible for many more people.

A woman is on a green e-scooter and a man is on a green e-cycle. They are standing still and talking in an urban setting. They are wearing normal clothes. The woman has long red hair, the man had dreadlocks
Tier offers e-cycles and e-scooters at a variety of UK locations

What’s on offer

There is a variety of these schemes around the UK, run by many different operators. Below we round up what’s currently available. Prices and how to access the bikes vary according to the scheme, so do check the websites for each.

Belfast Bikes


An app-based scheme provided by nextbike. There are more than 600 bikes which can be picked up from and returned to any of the 50 docking stations in the city. There are pay-as-you-ride or casual or annual membership options.





This dockless scheme has more than 700 bikes, e-cycles and e-scooters at various locations in England. Users access the bikes via an app and there’s a three-tier pricing system: one-off trip, day pass, or minutes bundle to use as needed.


Beryl runs in Bournemouth, Christchurch and Poole area, Bovington, Ferndown, Studland, Wimborne Minster and Wool, Dorset; Brighton and Hove, East Sussex; Falmouth, Penzance, Penryn, Newquay, St Austell and Truro, Cornwall; Greater Manchester; Hereford; Hertsmere; Cowes, East Cowes, Newport, Ryde, Sandown and Shanklin on the Isle of Wight; Leeds; Norwich, Norfolk; Plymouth, Devon; Portsmouth and Southampton, Hampshire; Watford, Hertfordshire; and Birmingham, Coventry, Sandwell, Stourbridge, Solihull, Sutton Coldfield, Walsall and Wolverhampton in the West Midlands (known as West Midlands Cycle Hire).

It also runs e-cargo bike hire schemes at Hackney and Westminster, London, and Hereford.

Big Issue eBikes


A dockless e-cycle scheme which allows you to leave the bike anywhere within the operating city – so long as you park sensibly. It’s run jointly by The Big Issue and ShareBike. Payment is by a monthly subscription.


Bristol and Aberdeen.

Brompton Bike Hire


Hire a Brompton from a locker at locations across the UK, many at train stations, and return it to any locker. The scheme is accessed via an app and unlike other schemes mentioned here, you keep the bike for 24 hours or longer.


Almost 80 docks across the UK, from Exeter to Elgin, and even one on Jersey.



These docked e-bikes are accessed via an app. There are several docks around the two Highland towns it covers and you can return your bike to any dock. There is a range of prices:£2.50 per ride, £8 for three hours, £12.50 for a monthly membership and £80 for a year’s membership.


Fort William and Inverness.

Human Forest


Dockless e-cycles accessed via an app. Use the app to locate the nearest bike to you – within the City of London and Camden, Islington and Kensington and Chelsea boroughs. There are designated ‘green bays’ within this area (known as the Forest) where you can pick up and park your bike. Parking outside these bays incurs a fee; parking outside the Forest gets you a penalty fine.


Covers 14 of London’s boroughs, with plans to add more.

Brompton Bike Hire operates from railway stations and other key locations across the UK



One of the world’s largest providers of shared e-cycles and e-scooters, Lime claims to have replaced an estimated 60,000,000 car trips since 2017 worldwide. It’s dockless and again requires an app. Pricing depends on which city you’re in.


In the UK, Lime operates in London (e-scooters only), Greater Manchester, Nottingham, Derby and Milton Keynes, Buckinghamshire.

OVO Bikes


Part of worldwide bike-sharing provider nextbikes, this app-based scheme offers both cycles and e-cycles. The bikes are picked up and dropped off at docking stations and an app is required. You can pay as you ride, monthly or annually.



Santander Cycles


This docked scheme is offered by different providers depending on location. This means you need to ensure you have the right app for whichever city you’re in. Pricing also depends on provider and location. The scheme’s first e-cycle offering was in Leicester, which has since shut down, although its most well known is the London scheme. Santander Cycles is aiming for it to be the biggest in the UK, with 500 e-cycles across 50 locations.


As well as the London scheme (provided by Transport for London), Santander Cycles is in Milton Keynes (nextbike), Stirling (nextbike), Swansea (nextbike) and Uxbridge (nextbike).



Mostly known for its e-scooter share schemes, Tier also offers e-bikes for hire from docking stations. It’s accessed via an app, and again you can either pay per ride or purchase daily or monthly passes.


There are schemes in Basildon, Bath, Braintree, Bristol, Chelmsford, Colchester, London, Milton Keynes and York.



This Swedish company operates in more 100 towns and cities in 12 countries. It mostly offers e-scooters, but some locations also include e-bikes – download the app to find out which places this includes. Pricing depends on where you are, with a day pass costing £7-£10 in the UK. The vehicles are dockless, but have to be left safely and within designated areas. They only work within designated operational zones and will simply stop if you try to take them outside of these.


Cambridge, Cheltenham, Corby, Gloucester, Kettering, Liverpool, London, Northampton, Oxford, Portsmouth, Rushden & Higham Ferrers, Southampton and Wellingborough.

Please note we have tried to include as many cycle share schemes as possible, but this isn’t a definitive list. It’s worth doing an internet search to find one close to you. If you know of any schemes we’ve missed, email us at

First published in August 2022; updated in February 2024.