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Brighton & Hove's hills prove a barrier to bike-share scheme - but Worthing may get one

Councillor in Brighton & Hove says money could be better spent elsewhere, such as 20mph zone introduced today

Plans to introduce a cycle-hire scheme in Brighton & Hove have been shelved partly due to the city’s hills, reports the Argus. Questions have also been raised about the economic sense of such a scheme, with a senior councillor saying that investment in measures such as 20mph zones, implemented today, make more sense. However, a bike-share scheme is under consideration in nearby Worthing.

The newspaper says that Councillor Ian Davey, chairman of Brighton & Hove City Council’s transport committee, believes the city’s topography would lead to people riding bikes to travel downhill, but not for the return journey.

That would mean extra costs being incurred as a result of council staff having to collect bikes and return them to more frequently used docking stations.

He also queried the economic sense of introducing such an initiative, saying: “These schemes are not cheap to run.

“Our emphasis has been on making Brighton and Hove a city safe for cycling and creating the right environment for more people to use a bike.

“Schemes such as these come forward but we already have shops in the city which hire bikes.”

Last month, it was revealed that in Nottingham, an average of less than one bicycle a day had been hired since a bike-share scheme was introduced there in September last year.

Blackpool’s cycle hire scheme is also reported to be under threat as a result of lower than predicted usage levels and the impact of cuts on council funding.

Councillor Davey also said that investment in initiatives such as implementation of 20mph  zones was a better use of resources, which he believes create “the right conditions for many people to cycle.”

A 20mph zone has been introduced today running from Sackville Road, Hove, to Freshfield Road, Brighton, covering most roads in central Brighton & Hove.

There are plans for the speed limit will be rolled out to other parts of the city within the next three or four years at a total cost of £1.5 million.

The Argus added that nearby Worthing is, however, considering introducing a cycle hire scheme.

Paul Yallop, leader of Worthing Council, believes a scheme would work there since the town is “very flat,” and is keen to explore the idea, although he said it would need to be supported by corporate sponsorship.

“The high street and the town centres need to reinvent themselves with what they’ve been through over the past few years,” he explained.

“Perhaps this is another idea where we can make Worthing a more vibrant place. “There could be a lot of people that would like to take advantage of a scheme like this.”

The potential problem outlined by Councillor Davey regarding Brighton’s hills providing an obstacle to introducing a cycle hire scheme is similar to one that  came to light in Paris after the Vélib’ cycle hire scheme was introduced in the French capital 2007.

Operators of that scheme discovered after it was introduced that commuters were hiring bikes in areas such as Montmartre to ride to work in the morning, then returning by bus or Metro in the evening.

As a result, operators have to load bikes onto trucks and take them back uphill to restock empty docking stations, and more recently a discount has been introduced for hiring bikes at some docking stations that are under-used.

Mayor of London Boris Johnson has previously ruled out expansion of the Barclays Cycle Hire Scheme into hilly areas of the capital, which would include locations such as Hampstead and Highgate.

Simon joined as news editor in 2009 and is now the site’s community editor, acting as a link between the team producing the content and our readers. A law and languages graduate, published translator and former retail analyst, he has reported on issues as diverse as cycling-related court cases, anti-doping investigations, the latest developments in the bike industry and the sport’s biggest races. Now back in London full-time after 15 years living in Oxford and Cambridge, he loves cycling along the Thames but misses having his former riding buddy, Elodie the miniature schnauzer, in the basket in front of him.

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jollygoodvelo | 10 years ago

Er... but they need a few vans to redistribute bikes around the town for usage patterns anyway (e.g. in London they make sure that the racks near Waterloo are well stocked in the morning and the City ones well stocked at 5-6pm). In Brighton I'd assume that they would have a big rack near the station and near the main shops...

A V Lowe | 10 years ago

The scheme does not HAVE to be a bike sharing scheme like the Barclays one, you could have something like the once about to be launched by Abellio around their 3 TOC's - a £10 subscription of a deal with your season ticket gets you 'membership' and you hire the bike by the day to take back to where you got it. the Dutch are not promoting this scheme for tourists and leisure rides, it is for utility trips - and largely commuting. Bikes are taken to work for the day, or taken home for the night.

The other option is to hire out Bromptons for a day or longer, and these can go on buses to get up the longer hills. Both the Abellio scheme and the Brompton Dock scheme have a small number of locations where bikes are hired, rather than small clusters of bikes distributed about the city and hopefully circulating in a balanced way.

Having been built for the transport of the 18th Century there are generally routes around Brighton which either follow the contour, or rise at a steady gradient, which even my 1-speed bikes can manage, so I'd respond that there are no very steep hills - just bad route planning - although there may be long hills, which need a steady campaign to climb.

One small detail from the paris bike hire system (not Ve'Lib but the much older one supported by RATP (TfL for Paris). Biokes were loaded in to stripped out buses, which went to the top of the hill to hire themm out, and when the bus was empty, it drove to the bottom of the hill to collect in the bikes. No chasing round just a supply of loaded buses to the top and empty ones to the bottom through the day....

doc | 10 years ago

The answer in hilly cities may be e-bikes, charging as they are at the docking stations. Possibly a higher hire charge, but it would give people the confidence that they could get where they wanted to go at least, hills or no. Only the capital outlay and slightly higher running costs would be the problem (unless the battery thieves see a target?). It could repay itself in less congestion, Brighton is a nightmare at the best of times.
20mph areas are a nice idea, but being able to actually do 20 around Brighton would be an achievement!

nowasps | 10 years ago

I'd like to know how the Bath Cycle Hire scheme is doing. We have our fair share of hills, and I haven't seen too many tourists winching their way around the city in all the time the bikes have been there.

Edgeley | 10 years ago

Brighton really is very hilly. Glad they've spotted that.

Simon_MacMichael | 10 years ago

Thanks Karl. I'm off to get some caffeine down me...

karlowen | 10 years ago

"people riding bikes to travel uphill, but not for the return journey." I think you may need to do a switcheroo on that. Unless Brighton residents are gluttons for punishment?

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