Words by Jack Beavis
Belfast is to have its own public bike hire scheme, similar to London’s ‘Boris Bikes’, operational by spring 2015 say the City Council.
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Installation is set to begin next month, which will see 30 docking stations built at locations such as Central Station, Millfield, Carrickhill, the Gasworks and Dunbar Link. It will be Northern Ireland’s first public bike hire scheme.
Hire will cost £20 for the year, or £5 for a three day casual use pass. The first thirty minutes of any journey will be free, with incremental charges thereafter.
Transport minister Danny Kennedy MLA has described the costs as “competitive”. His department has contributed over £1m into the scheme.
He said: “As ‘pedal power’ continues to grow here, we must all harness the momentum and continue to develop each opportunity to make cycling an everyday, safe, accessible and fun activity for all.
“Charges for the bike hire scheme are very competitive and I am confident it will provide an attractive, sustainable and inexpensive transport system for local people and visitors.”
However the scheme has been criticised by Belfast based journalist Malachi O’Doherty, who believes that greater infrastructure needs to be created in the city for it to become a “cycling capital”.
Writing in the Belfast Telegraph he said: “much of Belfast is not yet well provided for by cycle lanes. There are hazards on some of those lanes, too.
“If you want to attract new people to cycling you have to provide the systems that ensure they are safe and feel safe.
“We will not see the promised benefits in reduced health costs and pollution if people – who today are unfit – aren’t won over to cycling, and if those who think they can get to work faster in their cars don’t see a comfortable and safe alternative.”
Since the inception of ‘Boris Bikes’ in London four years ago their usage has grown with a record 1,170,000 hires this July. Other cities across the UK and Ireland have implemented such schemes such as Glasgow, Dublin and Nottingham.
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