Starting this summer, you'll be able to pick up one of the chunky bikes from around 400 docking stations in Zone 1. Each stand will have an average of 26 bikes, although some will have far more. You either pay £45 annually and get a chip-based key to unlock the bikes, or you put down £150 in caution money on a credit card, payable online or at a terminal at the docking station and then pay an access fee (£1 for a day, £5 for a week). You select your bike, the clamp holding the front wheel retracts, and you're away.
The scheme is intended, like the Paris Vélib' scheme on which it is closely modelled, to encourage people to use the bikes for short journeys around town: thus they are free for the first 30 minutes. After that, charges mount: from £1 for up to an hour to £50 for a whole 24 hours.
It's hard not to get excited about what this could do for cycling in London. It could make bicycles our normal mode of day-to-day transport.
On the contrary, it's very easy NOT to get excited. The bike hire scheme, even if it worked to 100 per cent capacity, is statistically insignificant in terms of modal share. And note the weird gear of the man in the photograph. Surely the people who'll be using the bike hire scheme won't be turning up helmet in hand, in jogging bottoms and luminous yellow tops. The bike hire scheme is intended for normal people, not cyclists.
And fifty quid for 24 hours of bicycle strikes me as a bit pricey.
The only thing that will get most Londoners cycling is safe, convenient infrastructure. Which isn’t remotely on the horizon. London remains a city where the car and the bone-idle motorist takes priority over the safety and convenience of the cyclist and pedestrian.