LONDON’S bike hire scheme, set for launch next year, will let cyclists ride around town for £1, as long as journeys are completed within half an hour.

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After that, it will be £1 for the next half an hour, £4 for 90 minutes and £50 for the 24 hour maximum, Transport for London announced today, 11 December.

That hefty charge for the full 24 hours shows that the scheme is intended mainly for short trips.

“It’s amazing how far your bike can take you in 30 minutes if you put in a bit of pedal power,” said London Mayor Boris Johnson.

“To be able to do so free of charge on one of our fantastic new bikes is simply sensational value for money.”

What he means by “free of charge” is that the first pound isn’t strictly speaking for hire of the bike, but is an “access fee” that entitles you to use, for the whole day, any of the 6,000 bikes to be made available in central London.

So, you could pay your £1, use a bike for 29 minutes, drop it off at one of the 400 docking points scattered around the Zone 1 travel area, pick up another bike later and use that for another 29 minutes without paying a penny more.

“Our cycle hire scheme is set to be one of the most exciting, affordable and energising ways to get around town,” aded Johnson.

One of the problems with similar schemes in other cities is that bikes have often been stolen, but the London version gets around that snag by requiring users to pay by credit or debit card, including a deposit of £150.

Those bike hire prices in full:

< 30 mins - free < 60 minutes - £1 <90 minutes - £4 <120 minutes - £6 <150 minutes - £10 <180 minutes - £15 <6 hours - £35 <24 hours - £50 Access - £1 per day, £5 per week, £45 per year. The scheme is due to start in the summer of 2010.