London cycle hire scheme launched

A public cycle hire scheme is up and running in London, with mayor Boris Johnson hailing it as "a new dawn for the bicycle in the capital".

Mr Johnson was at one of the 400 central London docking stations where 6,000 hire cycles will be stored.

More than 12,000 people have signed up for the Barclays Cycle Hire project, which aims to generate up to 40,000 extra cycle trips a day in central London.

Mr Johnson said at the inauguration: "Londoners have awoken to a new dawn for the bicycle in the capital. Overnight, racks have been filled with thousands of gleaming machines that will transform the look and feel of our streets and become as commonplace on our roads as black cabs and red buses.

"My crusade for the capital to become the greatest big cycling city in the world has taken a gigantic pedal-powered push forwards."

To begin with, the scheme will be available to those who sign up for membership. They will then receive a key which costs £3, with membership costs at £1 for 24 hours, £5 for seven days and £45 for an annual membership. The first 30 minutes of any journey will be free, and the next 30 minutes will cost £1, with rising costs for journeys of more than one hour.

David Brown, Transport for London's (TfL) surface transport managing director, said: "This will revolutionise how we get around central London."

He added that TfL and Serco, which is operating the scheme for TfL, would use the first month to see how Londoners got on with it and learn about patterns of use.

Casual users will be able to hire cycles by the end of August.

London Assembly Green Party member Jenny Jones welcomed the scheme but said there were concerns that Mr Johnson needed to address: "The bikes should have locks and bigger baskets. A target date should be set for people to be able to use Oyster (travel) cards to pay for the bike hire. The scheme also needs monitoring closely to ensure that the cost is not putting low-income Londoners off using the bikes. Above all, the scheme should be expanded quickly, as we currently have only a quarter of the bikes which Paris now has and the scheme covers a much smaller geographical area."

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