London will catch up with cities including Shanghai, Paris and Washington in July when it introduces its first easy-access bicycle hire scheme, the mayor announced Wednesday.
Residents and tourists frustrated by traffic and overcrowded public transport will be able to pick up a bike from about 400 locations across central London, for fees ranging from a pound a day to 45 pounds a year.
Officials said they expect the scheme, which will operate within London's Zone One travel area from July 30, to generate up 40,000 extra cycle journeys every day.
The London Cycle Hire scheme, which will comprise about 6,000 bikes, is similar to programmes already in place across Europe, including in Paris, Barcelona and Vienna, as well as in Shanghai, Montreal and Washington, DC.
Mayor of London Boris Johnson, himself a keen cyclist, said he expected the scheme to convert "legions of people" to travelling by bike.
"In just four months London will glitter with the twinkling dynamo lights of thousands of shiny cycle hire bikes, allowing Londoners and visitors to zip around the streets unfettered from timetables, queues and crowds," he said.
"What we are creating is not just a cycle hire scheme, but a new form of public transport of the greenest and healthiest of kinds.
"It will become the cornerstone of the cycling revolution in the capital and will, I'm sure, convert legions of people to the pleasures of pedal power."
Transport for London, the city's transport authority, is still seeking a commercial sponsor for the scheme, which is costing about 140 million pounds (210 million dollars, 160 million euros) to install and operate over six years.
Customers will need to pay one pound (1.5 dollars, 1.1 euros) for 24 hours' access, five pounds for a week or 45 pounds for a year, and from then on they will be charged according to how long they cycle.
Cyclists can drop off and pick up bikes an unlimited number of times throughout their access period, but the intention is to use the bikes for short journeys rather than keeping them all day.
As such, while the first half hour is free, up to an hour costs one pound, up to 90 minutes costs four pounds and up to two hours costs six pounds, rising incrementally to a maximum hire period of 24 hours.