It'll be less complicated to use a cycle hire bike from next year, as Transport for London (TfL) is simplifying the charging structure — though it will result in users paying more for shorter rides.
From 2 January, it'll cost £2 for every 30 minutes you keep the bike after the initial 30 minute free period (you'll still need to pay the access fee, currently £2 for 24 hours and £90 for a year). That's much easier to get our heads around than the current, stepped charges, but there are winners and losers. For example, if you want to hire a bike for 60 minutes at the moment, it costs £3 (£2 access fee plus £1 hire charge). Next year, it'll cost £4 (£2 access fee plus £2 hire charge). On the other hand, if you want a bike for up to three hours, right now you'll pay £17 (£2 access fee and £15 hire charge); from 2015 it'll be £12 (£2 access and £10 charge).
TfL is probably hoping making things easier will encourage more people to ride, as well as boosting revenues. A report (PDF), released earlier this year, identified that usage is below what was originally hoped (more than 9.5m trips so far this year, compared with a pre-launch estimate of 14.6m trips per year) and 90% of rides are in the freebie half hour period, rather than the 70% that TfL planned for. That's clearly not helping the finances: each ride is subsidised to the tune of £1.36 (an amount that is falling year on year) and the cost benefit ratio has turned out to be nowhere near as good as anticipated.