Londoners have hired bikes in record numbers during recent weeks amid the coronavirus pandemic, Transport for London (TfL) has said.

More than 70,000 people used Santander cycles – commonly known as “Boris bikes” – last Saturday.

It was the busiest day in the scheme’s decade-long history – except for during Tube strikes – and came during a record weekend of 132,000 hires in total.

Last week (25 – 31 May), was the busiest ever for Santander bikes – almost 363,000 were rented out.

Hires have dropped 26 per cent overall since the start of March compared to last year – as Londoners heeded strict stay home advice at the start of lockdown.

But most of that drop has been commuter journeys – leisure trips have fallen just 2.5 per cent in the period, and surged more recently.

TfL surface transport boss Gareth Powell said fewer commuters are picking up bikes from major stations in central London – but more people are hiring them near parks at the weekend.

“The scheme has been extraordinarily popular, and we see no sign of that abating,” he told a TfL board meeting on Tuesday (June 2).

“In fact, we’re hoping that it will continue to be more and more utilised.”

The network now plans to boost the number of bikes for hire in the city – by buying new stock, rather than replacing older bikes as previously planned.

TfL is also considering more pop-up bike docks to expand the scheme to cover a larger part of the city, Mr Powell said.

The transport network is offering free bike journeys under 30 minutes to NHS key workers during the pandemic – and more than 17,000 staff have taken up the offer so far.

And as more Londoners head back to work, TfL is building temporary cycle lanes across the city, so more commuters can cycle safely.

But Councillor Julian Bell – Ealing council leader and TfL board member – said returning cyclists should get training to help them back into the saddle.

“There’s people coming to me saying, ‘I’m going to get my bike out, I’ve not cycled for many many years’,” he warned.

“Yes, they can ride a bike – but they just need some road awareness.

“Our new lanes are going to give them that extra bit of confidence, but some cycle training would help as well.”