A new cycle hire scheme is due to launch across the West Midlands next year offering more people the chance to cycle around our towns and cities.
The operator of London’s famous 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 bikes for hire, of which 10% will be ebikes. The pedal cycles will all have three gears to cope with the hilly parts of the region and fitted with high quality laser safety lights that project an image of a bicycle five meters in front of the bike.
New WM Cycle at Sutton Park with from left: Cllr Waseem Zaffar, Birmingham City Council cabinet member for environment and transport, cllr Simon Ward, leader of Royal Sutton Coldfield Town Council, Mayor of the West Midlands Andy Street, Doreen Smith, Wyndley Leisure Centre and Simon Bailey, managing director, Leisure Serco UK & Europe
The scheme is a success story for regional manufacturing, with almost all parts being made here in the West Midlands. The bikes are manufactured in Stratford-upon-Avon by Pashley Cycles who also work with Serco to provide the bikes for London and Edinburgh. Supporting technology will be provided by British micromobility operator Beryl who also work 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.”
Cllr Waseem Zaffar, cabinet member for transport and environment with Birmingham City Council, said: “We know from our surveys that many people would love to take up cycling. But some are put off by safety fears and for them we have a growing network of safe cycle routes including on the A34 and A38 in Birmingham.
“And this new West Midlands Cycle Hire will offer a more affordable alternative to buying a bike and give more people the opportunity to try cycling and contribute to improving our air quality and easing traffic congestion.”
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, a first for a major UK bike share scheme.
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.
Cllr Simon Ward, leader of Royal Sutton Coldfield Town Council, said: “We are delighted to be at the forefront of this scheme in partnership with TfWM, the city council and Serco to bring cycle hire to Sutton Coldfield.
“It is great news for our Royal Town to be one of the first places in the region to launch this cycle hire scheme and it enables the Town Council to deliver on its priorities of improving cycling infrastructure, promoting active travel and healthy lifestyles.”
Serco’s Edinburgh scheme achieved almost 40% growth between July 2019 and July this year.
The London scheme, which Serco initially designed and built, and has been operating for ten years and saw more than 350,000 hires during a single week in May this year – it’s busiest week ever.
For more information and to register for updates on West Midlands Cycle Hire visit: https://www.wmcyclehire.co.uk/