It’s not just the lights that have been switched on in Blackpool this year – a new Hire-a-Bike service using automated stands is now available.
Visitors and residents can pick up a distinctive yellow and pink bicycle from nine hire stations along the Promenade and one each at Stanley Park and Blackpool Zoo.
At the scheme's launch this week there were 60 bikes available but by next spring this will have risen to 500 bikes at 100 stands.
You can hire a bike for the day for £8 or become a member for £10 and pay £1 an hour. The first 30 minutes of each rental is free. Membership of the service is free to residents until March 2010.
One-way trips are fine as bikes can be returned to any of the stands, or HUBs as they are called. Families are catered for, with children’s bikes available and discounts offered for family membership and daily hire of more than one bike.
Users of the scheme can take to the road or try out one of the cycle routes developed in Blackpool in recent years – the Jubilee Cycleway from North Pier to Anchorsholme, the North Pier to Staining route through Stanley Park, or the South Promenade route from Starr Gate to the Sandcastle.
The service is operated by Hourbike who run similar schemes in Bristol and for staff at Dublin Airport. It has been introduced as part of a range of cycling developments funded through Blackpool's status as a Cycling Town.
Other planned projects include the transformation of the seafront into a pleasant walking and cycling environment, the building of a BMX and cycle track, and adult cycle training.
While the Hire-a-Bike service is expected to be attractive to visitors, it should also be a major addition to transport facilities for local people. Car ownership in Blackpool is low and the terrain largely flat. For further information see www.hourbike.com.