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Hire-a-bike scheme could be shut down

Blackpools bike hire scheme has proved popular this summer, but it could now close after attempts to find a sponsor failed.

Blackpools bike hire scheme has proved popular this summer, but it could now close after attempts to find a sponsor failed.

Blackpool’s hire-a-bike scheme could be shut down for good next year after a bid to find a sponsor failed.

Town hall chiefs are considering a number of options for the future of the project which was launched in 2009.

One of these is to close it completely.

Other alternatives are to invest £60,000 in updating 100 of the 500 bikes to keep them on the road, or to hire a community cycling officer to look at other ways of encouraging cycling using the bikes.

A report to councillors says problems with the scheme, which has already been scaled back, have included maintenance issues and people not returning the bikes to the stands after using them.

However an initiative to provide a manned hire hub on the Promenade had proved popular this summer.

Between July and October this year 641 bikes were hired, including 97 for Ride the Lights – the curtain-raiser for the Illuminations.

A new operator, Cycles Recycled, ran the scheme this year and has called on the council to fit computer technology to 100 bikes which would allow them to be tracked while in use.

One option is to plough £60,000 of funding previously received by the council from the NHS into doing this.

Alternatively the NHS cash could fund a community cycling officer, while some of the hire bikes could be sold off to residents.

Last year the council closed the network, which costs around £100,000 to run annually, for the winter because it had failed to attract enough riders.

It re-opened it for summer with a reduced number of bikes in the hope of finding a sponsor but none has come forward.

When the scheme was launched there were 500 bikes positioned in 50 hubs.

London’s fleet of hire bikes – affectionately dubbed ‘Boris Bikes’ after mayor Boris Johnson – has been sponsored by Barclays, but the bank announced recently the deal will end in 2015 which is three years earlier than expected.

Coun John Jones, Blackpool Council cabinet member for transport, said: “A report was presented to the scrutiny committee on December 12 which outlined a number of options for the future of Blackpool’s Hire a Bike scheme.

“The committee asked to be involved in discussions over the future of the scheme and I have agreed to do so.

“I will be sitting down with officers early in the new year to look at the best options going forward.”

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