Wheels start turning on plan to bring cycle hire to Hull station

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Residents, visitors and students could pick up a hire bike from Hull’s railway station in future, as part of efforts to increase the numbers using green transport, a new report suggests.

Hull Council is looking at a number of options for cycle hire schemes, possibly basing one at the Paragon Interchange, to promote the city as a “Prestige Green City”. A report, to be discussed by councillors in the New Year, says the scheme could link in with a hub at the University of Hull.

It says: “A hub-based scheme initially located close to Paragon Interchange with the potential to be extended to cover corridors out from the city centre to the university and ferry terminals would appear to offer the best opportunity to introduce a cycle hire scheme at minimum cost and risk.”

The city has high numbers of people using a cycle to get to work – 12 per cent of the population according to the last Census. In August, hundreds of cyclists poured onto deserted city streets when the city centre was closed to motorists for part in a national event called Sky Ride, which aimed to encourage people to rediscover the pleasure of cycling. The report says a central hub based at the Interchange would target the largest numbers of commuters and visitors.

The idea is not new – two years ago Hull was on a shortlist of cities throughout the UK for a cycle hub based at the station, but progress fizzled out because of lack of interest from the rail industry and the change of government.

One of the schemes being looked at, as part of the report being discussed on January 3, would involve bikes being available for hire from the Interchange, or one or two smaller hubs at P&O Ferries and the university, with bikes being picked up or dropped off at specifically-designated cycle racks using a high tech bike lock system.

The bikes would operate on “corridors” from the university to the city centre taking in the Avenues and Beverley Road, and from the port to the city centre, picking up one of Hull’s main tourist attractions, the Deep.

The report says many other schemes have been expensive and have fallen by the wayside. Setting up a system to cover the city centre and waterfront, with just 12 “docking stations” and 120 bikes, would cost £335,000, with running costs of over £270,000 a year. In contrast the “Boris bikes” schemes in London which has 315 docking stations and 5,000 bikes and was launched last year, will cost £140m over six years.

The report notes that even the most successful schemes have come nowhere near paying for themselves. The schemes usually rely on taxpayers’ money for set up and “very significant” support from sponsors, who try and recoup money from advertising.

In order to stand a chance of success “cities with high existing cycle use need to carefully target any scheme to be introduced on user groups who don’t have easy access to their own bike, such as visitors and students and people travelling to the city by public transport who need to complete their journeys”.

It says there is no “clear evidence” that increasing the number of cyclists would see accidents rise. Cycle theft and vandalism has been a significant problem but building bikes out of non-standard parts and making them very distinctive can put thieves off, it says.

The report recommends carrying out a detailed feasibility study and concludes by saying a hire system like the one in London “would struggle to generate sufficient users or sufficient external sponsorship to be economically viable”, adding: “A simpler scheme without expensive fixed docking stations based on targeted areas of the city would be more likely to succeed.”

The deputy chairman of the environment and transport overview and scrutiny commission, Coun Gary Wareing, said: “I certainly think it is an aspiration we’d like to do in the city, but we have to come up with a workable scheme that is cost-effective and actually increases cycling.”