I wanted grab a hire bike at the Oval today, so I strolled up to the Kennington Road docking station. Empty. Darn. So, on up Kennington Road to the Kennington Cross dock. One solitary 'blue barge'. Stick in the key...the dreaded red light. Try again...same thing. Give up on that one, so down to Sancroft Street. A good few bikes here. First bike - again the red light! Second bike - a brief green flash and then red. Third bike - finally, the green light: success!
The 'traffic light' system on the docking station is not very well-designed. There's no information as to why you get the red light. It could be your key is faulty, your account is locked out, the bike is faulty, the docking station is faulty or out of service...you just have to try again with another bike. I've seen stories that you get a red light if the bike has been reported faulty. However this seems strange - you would think there would be a flashing red light so you don't bother trying that bike. I've logged an enquiry (the web site spells this 'enquery') - we'll see what the response is like...
Within a couple of hours I got a phone call from the Cycle Hire people. The representative said that getting a red light could mean there was a fault with the docking station, or the cycle could be 'stuck in the system'. Hmmm...not sure what to make of that.