London's municipal bike hire scheme is a year old and is getting into full swing ahead of the Olympics. Nicknamed "Boris bikes" after the city's inimitable mayor, they are a healthy and convenient way to get around central London. Bike hire is simple once you have worked out how the system operates.
Head to the Transport For London (tfl.gov.uk) Barclays Cycle Hire page. You can choose membership for regular use, or casual use for just grabbing a bike now and then.
First you have to register and pay an access fee to use the service. This can be done online or at a docking station, with a credit or debit card. An initial payment of £1 registers you for 24 hours, or £5 for 7 days (ideal for a London holiday).
Next you have to get a release code to use a bike. Insert your card and the docking stations will issue you with a 5 digit access code. Key this in to your chosen bicycle and it will click to release from the docking station.
The bikes are intended for short hires, not for extended periods. The charges escalate accordingly. For the first 30 minutes of use you don't have to pay anything extra. For an hour the additional cost is £1, for an hour and a half, the cost is £4. After that the prices start to increase substantially.
If you are thinking of spending a day in the saddle it will be far more cost effective to make a series of short journeys, returning the bike to the docking station when you stop for coffee breaks and sightseeing. There are docking stations all over Central London, and across most of the outlying districts.
For a guide to the cycle paths of London check the Transport for London site or cycle-route.com. You'll be surprised how simple it is to get around the bustling city of London by bike.