Council cycle hire scheme scaled back after losses

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Blackpool’s hire-a-bike network has now been officially scaled back .

But leisure chiefs hope a change of direction for the scheme will still encourage people to saddle up.

After several years of uncertainty, including failed attempts to attract a sponsor, the pay-and-pedal scheme has been incorporated into Sport Blackpool, which includes the council’s leisure services.

For the second year running bikes will be available to rent from the Solaris Centre on South Promenade, as well as the council’s three sports centres – Blackpool Sports Centre at Stanley Park, Moor Park in Bispham, and Palatine in South Shore.

But most of the original network of 50 bike hubs has now been removed, with the rest also due to be taken out.

Leisure chiefs are hoping the scheme will be a success in its new format which cuts the operational costs.

New initiatives which it is hoped will boost usage include party bookings, while it is also being promoted to visitors at the Tourist Information Centre.

John Blackledge, Blackpool Council’s director for community and environmental services, said: “Nothing beats cycling along the Promenade.

“Our fleet of hire-a-bikes are a great, flexible way to tour Blackpool at a really good price. For just £5, people can travel wherever they like in the town at their own pace.

“Not only do they make for a great birthday out, but they are also available to hire if people just fancy a leisurely cycle on a nice day.”

John Flynn from Cumbria was one of the first people to take up the chance of a party booking to celebrate his birthday.

The 50-year-old said: “Blackpool is a great place to cycle along the seafront.

“Some of my friends had not cycled for a number of years, but we all enjoyed the experience.”

The hire cost includes helmets and a route map, and people who hire bikes at Palatine can also use the 1km cycle track next to the sports centre.

The hire-a-bike scheme was launched in 2009 with 50 hubs and 500 bikes, but it closed in winter 2012 because it was costing the council about £100,000 a year, and not enough people were using it.

In 2013 a scaled back network was re-opened using a manned hub on the Promenade but efforts to find a sponsor failed.

Last year most of the bikes were left in storage and a small number have been sold off by the council through its re-use store at the Bristol Avenue recycling centre in Bispham.