Cycle hire scheme given go-ahead to tackle congestion

Bikes in the London hire scheme
Bikes in the London hire scheme
From the left are Chief Fire Officer Neil Odin, Margaret Aldridge, Yvonne Ferguson, daughter of Margaret, and Lord Mayor of Portsmouth Councillor Ken Ellcome Picture: Duncan Shepherd (180086_010)

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A CITY-WIDE bike hire scheme has been given the go-ahead in Portsmouth as part of a bid to reduce congestion.

The project – inspired by the Barclays Cycle Hire known as ‘Boris Bikes’ in London – will see cycle hubs installed at Portsmouth and Southsea railway station and the University of Portsmouth.

Offered at the hubs will be bike hire and repair services, secure cycle parking and lockers, maintenance facilities and advice on cycle training and safety.

There will also be a 20-bike self-service dock for hire of Brompton foldable bikes at Portsmouth Harbour and another hub is planned for the proposed park-and-ride at Tipner.

The scheme is mainly aimed at encouraging commuters to use public transport and then finish their journeys by bicycle.

Council leader, Cllr Gerald Vernon-Jackson said: ‘It is so people can pick up a bike in one place and drop it off in another.

‘We want to do some work with big employers so they can get stands near their businesses.

‘It might mean that some people come to the city by train and then pick up a bike to get where they are going.’

The scheme was made possible thanks to a successful bid for £5m of government cash from the Department for Transport’s £560m local sustainable transport fund.

The council said cycle hubs have worked well elsewhere – including at stations in Leeds, Leicester and York.

Cabinet member for traffic and transportation, Cllr Jason Fazackarley, said more still needed to be done to improve transport in Portsmouth.

‘Portsmouth is ideal for cycling,’ he said.

‘But we do have a real car culture and, while we know we can’t just tell people to start cycling, it’s important to encourage people to travel sustainably.

‘This scheme is about improving the facilities for cyclists to allow them to do that.’

He added that the council had received advice from the people behind London’s bike hire scheme in setting up their own.

But Tory transport spokesman Luke Stubbs said there was still a question over how much the scheme would cost.

He said: ‘It is a nice idea in principle, I’m just not sure if there is enough demand in Portsmouth to make it work.

‘There could also be issues with theft and vandalism which will need to be addressed.’

At present there aren’t plans to allow people with an electronic card to pick up and drop off bikes in locked holders at various locations – as can be done in London.