They warn that at £140 million, the project is more expensive than similar ones in other European cities, and breaches the Mayor’s manifesto pledge to introduce it "at no cost to the taxpayer".
An annual subscription costs £45 (plus a one-off £3 charge for an electronic key) compared with €29 (£24.50) for Paris’s VeLib, €30 (£25.30) for the Villo in Brussels and €30.50 (£25.80) for the Bicing in Barcelona.
Copenhagen’s ByCyKlen scheme is free – and only requires the cyclist to deposit 20 Danish krone (about £2.20) in a slot to release the bike. The cash is refunded when it is returned.
Only Montreal’s Bixi, upon which the London scheme is based, charges as much – its annual subscription costs 78 Canadian dollars (about £48).
Research for the Standard found that London’s daily hire charges – which are levied after the first 30 minutes of "free" riding – are also generally more expensive than those on the Continent, though it depends on the exchange rate. This has added to concerns at the way the London charges escalate sharply after an hour, with a £150 penalty if the bike is returned after 24 hours or £300 if it is damaged or lost.
Labour’s Murad Qureshi, who earns £53,439 as a member of the London Assembly, said he would still buy a £45 annual membership but feared many on lower salaries would consider it too expensive. He said he was also disappointed that the system was not compatible with the Oyster card.
The London scheme launches to registered users next Friday, while unregistered casual users and tourists will have to wait until the end of August. Mr Johnson secured £25 million in sponsorship from Barclays for the hire bikes and his "cycle superhighways".
A TfL spokeswoman said it was "not cost effective" to use Oyster with the cycle hire scheme at launch. She added: "For short trips of 30 minutes or less, Barclay Cycle Hire will be the cheapest way to travel within the central London area, costing as little as 12p per day for those who register for annual membership."
* Contractors have begun to test bike-docking stations, like the one above in Southwark Street. The checks involve putting the vandal-resistant bikes, which cost about £350 each, into the docking stations for several hours at a time. Up to 6,000 of the bikes will be placed on the streets overnight next Thursday in time for the scheme’s launch the following day.