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Boris warns of teething problems as Barclays Cycle Hire Scheme goes live

It's "more of a gradual launch than a big bang," says London's Mayor...

Yesterday evening, Central London was awash with trailers carrying dozens of bikes at a time as the city’s new hire bikes – which we reviewed here yesterday on – were ferried to their docking stations ahead of the Barclays Cycle Hire Scheme going live at 6am this morning. However, Mayor of London Boris Johnson has warned that there are likely to be some teething problems.

In an interview with the radio station LBC, Mr Johnson said: “I have no doubt lots of things will go wrong.” While he added that the project, modelled closely on the Bixi scheme in Montreal, would be a “great success” in the long term, he explained: “The reality is that the software issues and technical issues of getting the whole thing up and running for tomorrow has been extremely difficult.”

Mr Johnson insisted that he expected that today’s launch “is going to be fine. It will be more of a gradual launch than a big bang,” but continued: “I have so many concerns it's hard to pick one out.”

He added that concerns raised by the public about the bikes included whether they would float should they end up in the Thames, and what might happen in the event bikes were stolen or vandalized or “if they end up at the Taj Mahal”. We’re guessing he didn’t mean the Indian restaurant in Richmond.

Mr Johnson also said that net of tax, each bike cost “£800 or £900,” admitting that “It's a lot of dosh for a bike, no question about it, but it will come down as the scheme expands.”

Meanwhile, Transport for London told the Evening Standard that 1,300 of the 6,000 bikes – nearly a quarter of the total – would not be in place for this morning’s launch.
The newspaper also claims that 3,000 of the 10,200 docking points – nearly one in three – are not yet ready. The newspaper made its calculation after going to 374 sites that appear on TfL’s cycle hire map and found that 284 were complete, 34 were still being constructed and work was yet to start at 56 locations.

According to TfL, around 8,000 docking points at 330 docking stations were due to be operational this morning. Until the end of August, the scheme will only be available to registered users, who can sign up on the TfL website and buy an electronic key for £3, which will have to be activated before it can be used.

Simon has been news editor at since 2009, reporting on 10 editions and counting of pro cycling’s biggest races such as the Tour de France, stories on issues including infrastructure and campaigning, and interviewing some of the biggest names in cycling. A law and languages graduate, published translator and former retail analyst, his background has proved invaluable in reporting on issues as diverse as cycling-related court cases, anti-doping investigations, and the bike industry. He splits his time between London and Cambridge, and loves taking his miniature schnauzer Elodie on adventures in the basket of her Elephant Bike.

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