Portsmouth would be ideal for a ‘Boris bike’ scheme, says group

PEDAL POWER Boris Johnson at the launch of the bike scheme in London in July last year
PEDAL POWER Boris Johnson at the launch of the bike scheme in London in July last year

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A CYCLE group in Portsmouth has supported possible plans to run a citywide bike hire scheme aimed at reducing traffic congestion.

The project – similar to Barclays Cycle Hire known as ‘Boris Bikes’ in London – would allow members with an electronic card to pick up and drop off bikes in locked holders at various locations such as train stations, shopping areas or workplaces.

The cycle hire plan is the highlight of a bid for £5m of government cash being put together by Portsmouth City Council. It is competing with other councils for a share of £560m from the government’s local sustainable transport fund and would also use the cash boost

If successful, the bike scheme revealed in The News yesterday could be up and running by 2013.

Hilary Reed, secretary of Portsmouth Cycle Forum, said: ‘There are already schemes like this throughout Europe and they all work very well. Portsmouth is so flat and the weather is so mild here that the conditions are prefect for it.

‘It would benefit the city in so many ways by reducing congestion on the roads, improving air quality and there are obvious health benefits to the people using them too.

‘Riding a bike is the quickest way to get around Portsmouth door-to-door and there are so many streets people miss when they are in cars – it is the best way to see the sights of the city.’

Successful proposals for a share of the government fund must reduce carbon emissions, boost the local economy, involve private companies or voluntary groups as partners and involve funding from another source.

Prices of the hire scheme have not yet been discussed, but to hire a Boris Bike in London costs between £1 for 30 minutes’ use to £51 for 24 hours.

Council leader Gerald Vernon-Jackson said: ‘This idea is at a very early stage, as are the other proposals in our bid. But it’s a serious bid and we’re serious about encouraging people to use cars less.

‘Our idea is for a cycle hire scheme aimed mainly at commuters. Instead of driving, people could use the train and pick up a bike for the last bit of their journey to work.

‘They’d drop it off at work and pick one up again when they left. It could also link up with our park and ride scheme.

‘As well as being good for the environment, it would reduce traffic congestion and free up parking spaces.’

Other proposals in the bid include measures to help buses run on time, help for companies who want employees to drive less and more information for residents and visitors about public transport, walking and cycling.