Sheffield is set to become the first Yorkshire city to join the ‘share bike’ movement, with an agreement in place for a mobile phone operated bike loan system which will begin a long term ‘step change’ in how Sheffielders travel, with hundreds of brightly coloured bikes on the streets of inner city Sheffield later in October.
Subject to demand, the scheme could quickly expand to a wider area, as far as Hillsborough, Parson Cross, Burngreave, Meadowhall and Dore, for example, with the potential for well over 1,000 bikes within a few months. (Typical Chinese share-bike factories can produce tens of thousands of bikes every day).
“A large number of journeys in Sheffeld of less than a mile or two are made by car, and a scheme like this can help the people of Sheffield to change those journeys to bicycle, and so improve their health and also improve the health of their fellow citizens,” said city council senior transport planner Paul Sullivan.
The scheme comes at no cost to the council, and the provider will sign a charter to address issues found in other schemes (in Manchester and London, for example) where a small number of bikes have been damaged, discarded or parked inappropriately.
Council officers are enthusiastic about a new kind of transport system that will provide more choices for Sheffielders. “You could use a share bike if you’ve just missed a bus, or were running late for an appointment, or just for getting to the shops before they shut,” said Councillor Jack Scott.
“They would also be ideal to help people leave their car behind to nip to the local shops, or for a quick option into town. They may even double up as a pool bike for employers. or even to get back from the bike shop once you’ve dropped your own bike off for service or repair.”
A large number of journeys in Sheffeld of less than a mile or two are made by car, and a scheme like this can help the people of Sheffield to change those journeys to bicycle, and so improve their health and also improve the health of their fellow citizens.
Users unlock a nearby bike using a mobile phone app which charges around 50p per half hour of use. Bikes are tracked and use non-standard fittings to deter theft, and a local team monitor the bike fleet and are on call to move bikes left in the wrong place within 2 hours. (The council can also remove bikes left in a dangerous location with costs met by the company.)
Users are awarded or deducted points depending on how responsibly they use the scheme, and can be fined or banned for transgressions like parking the bike in their house, or outside the defined area of use (monitored via the bike and the user’s phone app), which can be expanded to a wider area quickly to cope with changing demand.
There are concerns about how such schemes affect local bike retailers, but the operator will use local bike shops to maintain their growing fleet, and say the basic three-speed bike (with airless tyres) to be used in Sheffield is designed for short journeys, and users switched onto cycling will soon see the advantages of also buying a lighter multi-geared bike for journeys to the Peak District and beyond.
“I’m so excited to be exploring this type of scheme. This is exactly where we want to be as a city - working with residents and businesses to tackle big issues like congestion, obesity and poor air,” said Councillor Scott.“In some cities share bikes have led to an increase of 5% in bike trips. If that happens in Sheffield, we are going to see a real step change in how the city moves and functions.”