Free bikes in Birmingham?

By Richard Peace | Monday, September 15, 2008 10.00am

Birmingham has emerged as the forerunner to claim the title of the first British city to adopt a Paris-style Velib bicycle scheme.

City authorities have been in discussions with JC Decaux, who operate the Paris scheme, to exchange free bikes in return for advertising space around the city. Birmingham’s billboards are already run by JC Decaux. 

Liberal Democrat councillor Jerry Evans is one of the strongest proponents of a bike scheme, he said “I looked at the scheme while in Paris and I’m convinced that it would be a huge success in Birmingham. If such a scheme was introduced it could provide an income to the Council while easing congestion and cutting carbon emissions. It’s a win-win situation.”

Talking to BikeRadar, Evans stressed that getting a sufficient density of bike coverage in the central areas of Birmingham was one of the most important things to get right in the negotiations. Both JC Decaux and Centro, the West Midlands Passenger Transport Authority, are involved in the talks.   

A spokeswoman for Centro outlined how public bike hire was part of their plans for the future: “As part of our five year business plan we are looking at the possibility of bringing cycle hire schemes, similar to the successful system in Paris, into the region.”

The scheme could make use of Birmingham’s dense canal network, which holds great potential to increase cycling within the city’s central area.

It is to be hoped that the proposed scheme can avoid the recent crticism a similar scheme has attracted recently in Dublin.

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