cycle-hire-scheme-artist-impressionLondon wants to allow cyclists to pick up one of 6,000 bikes at the 400 docking stations planned for the capital by 2010.

Londoners will soon be able to hire bikes in the centre of town for short journeys, under plans announced this week by the mayor, Boris Johnson.

From 2010, the capital’s cycle hire scheme should be open with around 6,000 bikes in central locations. On April 27, Transport for London (TfL) began applying for planning permission for the 400 docking stations, where people will be able to pick up and drop off bikes around central London.

The docking stations will be built around 300m apart so that potential cyclists are never too far from being able to borrow and lock-up hired bikes.

“I pledged to deliver a cycling revolution across the city, and there is now a growing excitement about our cycle hire scheme, which will give all Londoners the opportunity to hop on a bike and experience the joys of cycling,” said Johnson.

“Much like hailing a cab, people will be able to pick up one of 6,000 bikes, and zip around town to their heart’s content – not only a quick, easy, and healthy option, but one that will also make London a more liveable city.”

The first of the planning applications has been submitted to Camden council with further applications planned for later this year in Hackney, Lambeth, Islington, Kensington and Chelsea, Southwark, Tower Hamlets and Westminster and the City of London. When the scheme is up to full speed, officials expect it will create an additional 40,000 cycle journeys on the 500,000 already made every day in central London. A similar cycle scheme launched in Paris saw 1.6m hires in the first month alone. Pricing is yet to be announced for London’s hire project, but Vélib’ in Paris charges €1 ticket for half an hour’s cycling – the cost is different if riders take out weekly or yearly subscriptions.

David Brown, managing director of surface transport at TfL, said the cycle hire scheme was meant to build on the growth in cycle journeys seen across London in recent years. “[It] will be the most sustainable, environmentally friendly form of public transport ever seen in London, and will provide people with an inexpensive and convenient way of making short trips around London.”

London Cycle Hire Scheme MapFriends of the Earth’s senior transport campaigner, Tony Bosworth, welcomed the cycle hire scheme. “Nearly a quarter of all car journeys in the UK are less than two miles long. Offering Londoners access to cheap bike hire would provide a greener and healthier alternative to driving – and help cut congestion, carbon emissions and air pollution in the capital.”

The announcement is part of a fund of around £111m being invested by Johnson’s office and TfL into cycling facilities around London. This money will go towards improving parking and road conditions for cyclists and also includes cash for on-going road safety campaigns and around £3m for training sessions for new cyclists.

*Written by Alok Jha and shared with EcoWorldly as part of the Guardian Environment Network.

Image credit: Transport for London

Resources for London bicyclists

London bicycle maps and guides

London bicycle journey planner

London bicycle hiring scheme page (watch the video)

Other links for London bicyclists