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London's Boris bikes can now be booked from your phone

You can now book and pay for a bicycle from the capital's Santander cycle hire scheme with an app.

Tourists ride on Boris bikes in London's Trafalgar Square. antb / Shutterstock

On yer bike: you can finally bypass fiddly kiosks and book a Boris bike from your phone when you want to explore the capital on two wheels.

The Santander-sponsored cycles hire scheme from Transport for London (TFL) allows you to hire a bicycle -- popularly known as a "Boris bike" -- from fixed docking stations around the city and return it to any dock when you're done, making payment at an automated kiosk at each station. The free Santander Cycles app makes things easier by booking and paying for the bike from your phone.

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The Santander Cycles app shows you where the nearest Boris bike stations are, how many bikes are available to collect and how many spaces are left to drop a bike off. TFL

The app plots a route between stations and shows you how many bikes and spaces are available at each. Payment is all handled by the app so there's no need to mess around with the machine at the docking station. Instead, you register your details with the app and payment is taken automatically based on how long you have the bike. You need a subscription first: that costs £2 for 24-hour access to the bikes -- handy for tourists -- or £90 for a year if you're a heavy user. After that, each ride is free for the first 30 minutes and £2 for each half hour after that.

To book, tap a button in the app. You're sent a code and have ten minutes to type that into a docking station to unlock your bike.

The app is available from TFL for Android from Google Play and iOS from the Apple App Store.

Originally sponsored by Barclays bank, the cycle hire scheme launched in 2010. Bikes began to be rebranded from Barclays to Santander in February, and the blue livery is in the process of being changed to red.

The bicycles themselves are popularly known as Boris Bikes after London's mop-topped mayor Boris Johnson, although the idea actually began under his predecessor Ken Livingstone -- perhaps they should be called Kenny Farthings. There are currently over 11,500 bicycles in around 750 docking stations across the capital. The stations are placed roughly every 300 to 500 metres, from Clapham in the south to Camden in the north, and Shepherds Bush in the west to Blackwall in the east.