Boris’ Bikes for York? Maybe!

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July 8th, 2013
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York has long been regarded as one of the UK’s most cycle-friendly cities with 1 in 5 journeys made on our streets done so using two wheels. This reputation could be cemented with the introduction of a  city-wide cycle hire scheme, if approved at City of York Council’s Cabinet on Tuesday 16 July.

The council is moving towards making cycles readily available to everyone in the city for short trips through the introduction of the new scheme, which could be in place by early 2014.

If approved, officers will undertake further development of a business model for a scheme including seeking external sources of funding and tendering for a potential provider. It’s not out of the question to assume corporate sponsorship will materialise and income can be expected from users of the scheme.

Indicative costs have been sought using Newcastle as the closest example to what York should strive to emulate and this estimates that the cost to introduce a 24 month trial would be approximately £200K per annum based on 130 bicycles and 38 locations. The scheme is likely to cover the whole of the city, with a network of dozens of cycle hire points located in key areas, i.e. close to the city centre, the universities, residential areas, park & ride sites, and the outlaying retail parks.

Cllr Dave Merrett, Cabinet Member for Transport, Planning and Sustainability, said: “This would be an effective way of promoting cycling, particularly in view of the desire to secure a legacy to the Tour de France in York next year.

“Despite over eleven thousand York residents (aged 16 to 74) choosing cycling as their primary mode of travel to work (census in 2011) there still remains a gap in cycle provision for those living, visiting and working in York who don’t have a bike and require a quick and flexible service to meet a variety of needs.”

York is not along in exploring the merits of a cycling sharing scheme. In the past decade, close to 300 bicycle sharing programs have popped up worldwide with the trend driven by a desire to reduce our daily carbon footprint, alleviate traffic congestion, and inspire a healthier generation.  Here are 3 of the most famous.




Boris Bikes, York © Nana B Agyei on Flickr

(Barclays Cycle Hire © Nana B Agyei on Flickr)

London seems a good place to start, with Barclays Cycle Hire, or Boris’ Bikes as they are affectionately known, often celebrated with great fanfare.  In its first year, it served over six million journeys by 128,000 regular users. Although initially requiring registration and charging membership fees, now all you need to hop on is a debit or credit card.

The project is expected to cost £140 million over six years, and it is hoped that the scheme will pay for itself with hire charges as well as sponsorship to the tune of £50m by Barclays until 2018. Almost all journeys (95%) are under half an hour and with charges not kicking in until after this time, there has been a dependence upon late fees and penalties to make up revenues.

Nevertheless, Boris’ Bikes have quickly become part of everyday life for many Londoners and the scheme looks set to grow and grow.




Bikes, Paris, York © Nick Rowlands on Flickr

(Paris, Vélib © Nick Rowlands on Flickr)

Launched in 2007, Vélib’ in Paris is the largest such scheme in Europe, boosting over 20,000 bicycles and 1,202 bicycle stations. The Vélib’ model is based on subscriptions, which entitle the subscriber to an unlimited number of rentals.

All the set up costs were met by advertising company JCDecaux, in return for exclusive use of the 16,000 billboards in Paris for its clients. Whilst wildly popular with Parisians, Vélib’ notoriously suffers from far greater theft and vandalism problems than its London equivalent.




Stockholm City Bikes, York © bjaglin on Flickr

(Stockholm City Bikes © bjaglin on Flickr)

Stockholm City Bikes adopt a similar model to Paris, in conjunction with advertising company Clear Communications, who are also behind sister schemes in Barcelona, Zaragoza, Washington DC, and Oslo. Only open during Summer months, and between 6am and 10 pm, it has the added bonus of free use of helmets.


So, what do you think about the prospect of a cycle sharing scheme in York?

  • Doug James

    Boris bikes work really well and I jump on one when I’m in London. There isn’t quite as much need in York but connection between certain hubs, such as the railway station, University of York and Monks Cross (stadiums, swimming pool, etc), would be a great idea.

  • Dave Taylor

    Very supportive of the idea.

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