West Midlands Cycle Hire has opened to the public with the grey and green bikes now available on the streets of Sutton Coldfield and Wolverhampton.
Up to 20 docking stations have been placed at key locations around Wolverhampton, including outside the bus station, with five docks also up and running in Sutton after a month-long trial in the town. The bikes in both locations can be unlocked via the Beryl Cycle Hire smartphone app.
Currently, the bikes can only be hired for essential journeys and daily exercise, but as restrictions start to ease they can also be used for other trips.
The bikes will continue to be rolled out across other boroughs in the West Midlands in the coming months, and when fully rolled-out later this year there will be 170 fixed docking stations and 1,500 bikes for hire across the region, of which 150 will be powered e-bikes. There is an option to increase this as demand grows.
The cycle hire scheme has been launched by Transport for West Midlands (TfWM), part of the West Midlands Combined Authority (WMCA), to encourage more people to become active and healthy and offer a convenient and more environmentally-friendly alternative to the car for shorter journeys.
“I am really pleased to get our West Midlands Cycle Hire Scheme up and running and see the new bikes out on the streets of Sutton Coldfield and Wolverhampton ready to be used,” said Andy Street, the Mayor of the West Midlands and chair of the WMCA. “The scheme is all part of our wider plans to promote and improve cycling across the region, as we continue to invest millions in our 500-mile Starley Network of safe cycle routes, as well as help fund a range of community-led projects through the Better Streets Fund.
“Not only is cycling brilliant for people’s fitness and physical health, but it also helps reduce the number of cars on the road, helping us to tackle congestion, air pollution, and the climate emergency we are facing as a region. As we emerge from lockdown I’m sure our Cycle Hire Scheme will prove to be incredibly popular for cyclists both young and old, and I would urge people of all abilities to give the bikes a go.”
As well as the city centre sites, docks in Wolverhampton are also situated at major approaches to the city centre such as Penn Road, Stafford Street and Bilston Road – giving people the option of using a bike for the final part of a journey into the city centre.
City of Wolverhampton Council leader, councillor Ian Brookfield, added: “We’re pleased to be part of the West Midlands Cycle Hire scheme. Cycling has a crucial role to play in tackling issues such as congestion and pollution, as well as offering a great way of getting exercise and enjoying the fresh air.
“We’re working hard to support cycling in Wolverhampton, with new routes being planned for the city, including a pathway along the central reservation of Ring Road St Peters and the creation of a continuous cycle route along the A4124 Wednesfield Road which will provide a key link between the city centre and New Cross Hospital.
“As a city, we are committed to improving our infrastructure for more sustainable transport and these two schemes will complement other work we carried out over the summer to improve the city for cyclists and pedestrians. The addition of a new £525,000 cycle hub next to the railway station later this year also forms part of the city’s award-winning £150million Interchange development, better connecting cycling with bus, train and tram.
“And we hope the announcement that Wolverhampton has been chosen as the start and finish of the cycling time trial for the Birmingham 2022 Commonwealth Games will encourage people to enjoy this healthy, fun and environmentally-friendly method of transport.”
The pedal cycles have three gears to cope with hilly parts of the region and are fitted with high-quality laser safety lights. The five-year contract with Serco, the operator of London’s successful Santander Cycle Hire scheme, offers the opportunity for more docks and bikes to be provided as demand increases. The bikes are made by Pashley’s in Stratford-upon Avon and the docking stations and locks are also manufactured in the West Midlands.
Sam Jones, Serco’s micromobility director, said: “We are delighted to be working with Transport for West Midlands to introduce the very first bikes for members of the public on the new West Midlands Cycle Hire scheme. Serco is using its experience managing the successful cycle hire schemes in London and Edinburgh to bring the new cycle hire scheme to the West Midlands that is usable for both regular and non-regular cyclists alike.”
It costs £1 to unlock a bike and 5p per minute after that. The bikes can be hired using the Beryl Cycle Hire app. Later this year, they will also be available via the new Swift App.