Oxford's public bike hire shaping up

By Richard Peace | Thursday, March 12, 2009 12.00pm

A major public cycle hire scheme has been announced to start in Oxford in 2010.

Oxfordshire County Council has approved an 18 month pilot. They've also initially set aside £70,000 for the scheme, project partners being expected to provide some funding as well.

People would be able to pick up a bike from a public rack and return it to that or any other rack in the city. A swipe card or some other form of electronic technology with the user's details unlocks the bike from the rack. The scheme is subject to the necessary funding and a service provider being found.

"We are committed to encouraging more people to cycle in Oxford and we believe a large number of residents, regular visitors, tourists and city workers could reap the benefits of a well organised and user-friendly scheme," said Ian Hudspeth, Oxfordshire County council cabinet member for transport.

Concerns that the city's existing cycling culture might reduce take-up of the pilot are countered by those who prefer not to leave their own bike in the city centre. But cyclists in Oxford seem to be receiving mixed messages from their transport chiefs.

Transform Oxford is a plan to improve the city centre, pedestrianising streets and taking buses out of some of them. Concerns were expressed by local cyclists at a recent consultation meeting with the Oxfordshire County Council transport chief that cycling too could be removed.

Campaign group Cyclox spokesman James Styring, said: "There was nothing in the Transform Oxford proposals about cycling and we want to make sure that if they pedestrianise roads, they don't end up banning bikes." The County Council does say that the issue of where people can cycle has not yet been decided, although "it is highly likely that cycling will need to be restricted in some streets at certain times of day."

Oxford claims to have the second highest level of cycling in the UK (Cambridge is highest) with 21,000 cyclists riding into or out of Oxford city centre each day, as compared to 53,000 cars.

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