Cycle superhighways launched in London

London's first two cycle superhighways have been officially opened.

The pilot lanes run from Merton, south London, to the City and from Barking in the east to Tower Gateway.

They are the first of 12 superhighways earmarked to be in use by the end of 2015.

The blue painted routes have been created to make it safer by, among other initiatives, widening the lanes and using large "Trixi" mirrors to give drivers better views of cyclists.

The scheme, sponsored by Barclays, will give money to the eight London boroughs and local businesses along the pilot routes to fund cycle parking spaces and cycling lessons.

London Mayor Boris Johnson said cycling accounted for 2% of journeys in the capital and he wanted to improve this figure to 5% - "a huge leap".

"You have got to have a powerful and visible statement on the roads that asserts to every Londoner, whether on two wheels or four, that the capital is a cycling city," he added.

"London will acquire an ever greater reputation as the best big city on earth to live in."

He joked: "We must tackle the scourge of obesity, or the 'Big Society' as it's sometimes known."

Members-only trial

But cycling blogger Rob Ainsley, 49, said: "It really is an opportunity missed. You are still scrapping for space with cars and lorries and taxis.

"It's just blue paint on the road."

Work is under way on the design of the next two routes, which will be launched in summer 2011 and will run from Bow to Aldgate, and Wandsworth to Westminster.

On 30 July, the London Bike Hire Scheme will be launched allowing people to access bikes 24 hours a day from 400 docking stations in nine boroughs and several Royal Parks in central London.

But the service will be open to registered members only for the first four weeks who will have to pay £3 for a key and an additional fee of £1 for 24 hours, £5 for a week and £45 for a year.

David Brown, the managing director of surface transport at Transport for London, said: "We and Serco will use the first month of operation to learn more about how Londoners engage with the scheme, including patterns of use, how we can best support customers and to enable the scheme to bed down."

Casual users and tourists will be able to hire cycles directly from terminals from the end of August.

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