This week TfL brought out a handy new phone app for its cycle hire scheme in London. Branded with Santander colours and logos, the new technology is said to do a few fun things that no previous app has managed. We took it for a test to find out.
The main benefit of the app is that if you previously used a credit or debit card at the terminal to hire a bike, you can now do this from your phone. You still have to be registered and signed in to the app, but provided that's done, you can simply click 'hire now' and a new release code will be sent straight to your phone. You then have ten minutes to use it without any need to fight with the fiddly touch-screen terminal that doesn't always work. Hurrah!
There's also a 'nearby docking stations' map that shows you all the docking stations in your vicinity. Useful, but unfortunately we couldn't find a way to scroll to another part of town to see if there was a docking station in the area we were heading to. However, there is a 'plan a journey' section where you can type in where you're going and receive multiple journey suggestions plus the time it takes to ride there and whether those roads are likely to be quiet or busy.
After you've finished with the bike, you get a notification of how long you had it, how much it cost and you can also see a list of all previous journeys too (something that you could previously do at the docking station but can now do with less hassle on your phone).
One thing we really wanted the app to do, but apparently it doesn't, is send you notification when you're nearing the end of your 30 minute free period, which would be extra useful if, say, you were wearing a smart watch.
If you are signed up for a yearly membership you'll have a key to use so the app is less useful, but could be handy if you're cycling with someone who isn't signed up.