London has its colloquially-named Boris Bikes - so what should Sheffield’s equivalent be informally called?
It’s an amusing moot point to consider, but one that’s becoming more pressing with the expansion of the city’s Sheffield ByCycle hire bike scheme.
The blue and white bikes launched around Sheffield University in 2015, and now two new docking stations have been added at Sheaf Street, near the railway station, and in Barker’s Pool close to the City Hall.
Another station is set to be installed soon at Portobello, near St George’s Church on the university campus, along with hopefully four more this year, possibly including The Moor.
But the bicycles aren’t just aimed at busy students - they’re available for the public to use, too.
This weekend the Sheffield District Cyclist’s Touring Club is organising a 10-mile ride giving people the chance to try out the bikes as a group. Setting off from the university’s Diamond Building, the circular route will take in the city centre, its green spaces and viewpoints, including some hills, at a gentle pace, with a café stop in Endcliffe Park.
The ride’s leader will be CTC member Les Sturch, who said the event had attracted interest.
“We’re hoping to have a good turnout,” he said.
“Obviously the idea is to get people to try out the new bikes - but if they’re not confident enough to do that they’re welcome to join in on any bike.
“We’ve seen the Boris Bikes in London and similar ones in other cities but they’re new for Sheffield. It’s a bit different than other places, Sheffield’s more hilly and it’s more of a challenge - but the bikes have got three gears.”
Les has sampled the experience already. He and a friend took some hire bikes out on a ride one Saturday morning.
“It was great. They’re nice and safe - we managed to get up to the Cholera Monument and did a 10-mile circuit.
“They’re good bikes. I have to say, compared to a road racing bike it was hard work on the hills, but very doable. It just adds a bit of extra interest. When we went up to Norfolk Park we had grandstand views.”
Les has been keeping an eye on the bikes’ availability online to make sure there are enough on Saturday.
“Quite a lot of students ride down from the halls of residence into town. But some people don’t realise the public can use them. Hopefully it will introduce a few more people to them.”
Participants will need to put £3 on an online account in order to complete the ride, Les explained.
“It’s ever so easy. They’re £1 an hour for normal usage, which is cheaper than most other cities. And if you pay a £10 subscription the first half-hour is free.
“If someone is just doing a little commute within 30 minutes, they get that for free once they’ve paid £10 upfront.”
Les was formerly the director of development services at Sheffield Council, and the retired planning chief is closely monitoring the city’s efforts to cut down on car usage.
“It’s about promoting good modes of transport. And cycling is part of that. I always used to cycle to work. I think a lot of people in Sheffield think you can’t get up the hills, whereas actually you can.
“If it helps people get around Sheffield, and to be a bit more active without relying on cars all the time, it’s a great alternative.
“It worked ever so well in London and has taken off in cities worldwide.”
n Meet at 9.30am at The Diamond on Leavygreave Road. Call Les on 07568547777 for details or log on to Sheffield Bicycle to find out more about the hire bikes.