We were in Paris the other week and saw the excellent Vélib' (freedom bike) set up. Specially designed, heavy grey cycles are stationed at bike stands all over the city, available for hire for as little as 1 Euro for half an hour. Riders can pick them up, cycle about and drop them off at their destination - the special, secure bike stations are located every 300m in the city.
Locals can pay an annual subscription of about £20, along with a credit card deposit, whilst sporadic users and visitors can buy daily or weekly cards to give them access to the funky and easily accessible bicycles.
One privately operated scheme is already up and running in our capital. OYBike, masterminded by former cabbie, Bernie Hanning, allows you to reserve and returns bikes via your mobile phone but has yet to expand into the centre of town where need must surely be greatest.
Cycling is being heavily promoted by Transport For London as both a healthy and congestion beating way to travel around the capital. On September 23, the Hovis London Freewheel will see some of our major roads closed to all other traffic and open only to cyclists.
All in all we're very excited about this. It would be so much easier to pick up a bike in town for short journeys rather than having to plan your entire day around having your own bike with you, hoik it up stairs and keep it safe and not get drunk and abandon it outside the office. We'll be watching for developments with great interest and can't wait to get on those bikes.
Image of Parisian Velib' bikes courtesy of RuiPereira's Flickrstream.