The Conservative / Lib Dem administration of Reading Borough Council has tasked officers to look into the possibility of implementing a major new scheme which could see around 1,000 bicycles available for hire at 100 – 150 docking locations across the town, at key points such as the railway stations, University, local shopping centres, business parks, and park and ride sites.
Similar cycle hire schemes already launched in London and Paris see each bicycle used around 5 to 10 times every day. If a similar scheme was introduced in Reading it would have the potential to increase cycling across the town by 40% – or around 10,000 additional trips per day.
While still at an early stage of planning, initial thinking would be to offer the first half hour free, and to set up a pricing structure which would encourage users to return bicycles to docking stations quickly for others to use. The possibility of introducing an integrated ticketing system where cyclists could switch between buses and bikes using the same ‘smartcard’ is also being looked at, together with other means of easy payment.
Reading Borough Council transport officers have been working up the potential for a scheme over recent months. Their early findings will be discussed at a meeting of the Council’s Cabinet on Monday 14 March where councillors will discuss whether to recommend that a full business case be drawn up in order to seek central Government funding and private sector sponsorship.
‘This is an ambitious plan which would put Reading on the cycling map. There are substantial health benefits from regular cycling and if we can persuade people regularly to use a bicycle rather than their car there could be the benefits of reduced congestion and pollution. If this is approved by the Cabinet then we will begin the process of obtaining the necessary financial support to make the scheme deliverable, consulting the public on the detail of docking station locations, and investigating possible operators of such a large scheme. We are discussing with colleagues in Wokingham Borough Council the possibility of extending the scheme to Woodley, Early and the business parks around Reading. To date the response has been very supportive.
In 2010, 3.2% of trips recorded by the annual survey of trips into central Reading were by bicycle (6,400 cycle trips in a 12-hour period). If this level of cycling is factored up to reflect all trips around, to and through Reading, current levels of cycling are likely to be around 25,000 trips per day.
Under the proposals bicycles would be publicly available to use for short journeys around Reading, based on a smart tag and registration scheme. Docking locations would be chosen to offer as many residents, employees and visitors as possible a cycle hire public transport option within 300-500m of their home, workplace or key transport hubs like Reading Station or Park and Ride sites. The possibility of extending the scheme across the Reading boundaries is also being discussed with neighbouring authorities.
Reading currently hosts a small ‘OYBike’ cycle hire scheme, with approximately 15 bicycles at 3 docking locations, sponsored by Green Park and First Great Western, but the scheme is not considered big enough to make a real difference to overall cycling levels in the town.
If agreed by Cabinet members on March 14th, the next stage would be for transport officers to move from an outline business case to working up specific details like the scope and operational requirements of the scheme, submitting planning applications for docking stations and negotiating a sponsorship agreement.
The meeting of Reading Borough Council’s Cabinet on March 14 takes place at the Civic Centre and begins at 6.30pm.