A new cycle hire scheme is due to launch across the West Midlands next year.
The operator of London’s Santander Cycles has been appointed by Transport for West Midlands (TfWM) to offer bikes for hire in Birmingham, Coventry, Dudley, Sandwell, Solihull, Wolverhampton and Walsall from next spring.
Contractor Serco will initially provide 1,500 for hire, of which 10% will be e-bikes. The pedal cycles will all have three gears to cope with the hilly parts of the region and fitted with laser safety lights that project an image of a bicycle five metres in front of the bike.
The bikes are manufactured in Stratford-upon-Avon by Pashley Cycles who also works with Serco to provide the bikes for London and Edinburgh. Supporting technology will be provided by British micromobility operator Beryl, who also works with Serco in London.
The on-street docks are being made by Universal Fabrications in Nuneaton, while the locking system is produced by Coventry based RDM Group and PHA Europe in West Bromwich. The plastic mouldings for the bikes and docks are made in Telford by LVS.
Following a link up with the Royal Sutton Coldfield Town Council (RSCTC) the scheme will be launched with a limited trial in the town in February 2021 followed by a full public launch across the West Midlands from March. Up to eight docking stations are to be installed in key locations around the town centre including the edge of Sutton Park.
TfWM, which is part of the West Midlands Combined Authority (WMCA), has agreed a five-year contract to offer more people the opportunity to enjoy cycling and provide a convenient alternative to the car for shorter journeys. Work is under way with partner councils to find sites for 170 fixed docking stations across the region. There will also be some virtual geo-fenced docking areas which can be moved to meet demand or for large scale events such as the 2022 Commonwealth Games.
Mayor of the West Midlands Andy Street said: “During lockdown we have seen a huge increase in people cycling around our region. So it is the right time to be starting a cycle hire scheme and I am delighted that Serco’s cycle hire business, who have a great track record running cycle hire in London and Edinburgh are working with us here in the West Midlands.
“What’s more the scheme is truly made in the West Midlands with the bikes, locks and docks all produced here, further supporting local businesses and jobs. We are putting unprecedented investment in our cycling and walking infrastructure, including the Starley Network of safe cycle routes launched during the summer, because it is a great alternative to the car for shorter journeys, good for the environment, good for our health and great fun.”
Serco expects the scheme to create up to 25 new local jobs supporting the operation and maintenance of the bikes. Beryl will provide the full technology platform for the service, including the rider app and GPS connectivity on the bike which will integrate with the Swift travel card system, enabling customers to use their Swift accounts to hire bikes in the West Midlands.
Simon Bailey, managing director of Serco’s Leisure business, said: “We are delighted to have been awarded the contract to operate the new West Midlands Cycle Hire scheme. We will be using our expertise in providing and managing the successful cycle hire schemes in both London and Edinburgh to support Transport for West Midland’s goal of increasing the number of cyclists in the region by 5% by 2023.
“Working with our British partners, Pashley and Beryl, we have created a bespoke solution for the people of the West Midlands. The scheme will have a best-in-class cycle and a technology solution adapted to meet the needs of the user and supporting Transport for West Midlands key strategic priorities.”
The scheme is being set up with £5 million from TfWM’s Transforming Cities Fund with ongoing costs covered by rental income and commercial sponsorship. The RSCTC is contributing £61,000 towards the running costs of the Sutton Coldfield scheme.