Belfast council has confirmed that the city is to get its own version of the Boris Bike by Spring 2015 with 30 docking stations located throughout the city. However, critics are questioning whether this scheme alone will win people over and are calling for improvements to cycle infrastructure.
The Belfast Telegraph reports that installation work on docking stations is to begin next month, with locations including Central Station, the Odyssey, Millfield, Carrickhill, the Gasworks and Dunbar Link. Users can pay £20 for a year-long subscription or £5 for a three-day pass. The first 30 minutes of every journey are free with incremental charges from then on.
It is hoped that the development will encourage more people to cycle after recent figures depicted what environmental campaigners described as a ‘car-first’ transport policy in Northern Ireland.
Transport minister, Danny Kennedy, said:
"As 'pedal power' continues to grow here, we must all harness the momentum and continue to develop each opportunity to make cycling an everyday, safe, accessible and fun activity for all.
"Charges for the bike hire scheme are very competitive and I am confident it will provide an attractive, sustainable and inexpensive transport system for local people and visitors."
Belfast city councillor Deirdre Hargey said the pricing had been set so as to be as affordable as possible to as many people as possible with the aim of encouraging people to make short trips around the city by bike.
However, writing in the Belfast Telegraph, Malachi O’Doherty, feels that people new to cycling first need to be provided with better infrastructure to ensure they feel safe.
“We will not see the promised benefits in reduced health costs and pollution if people – who today are unfit – aren't won over to cycling, and if those who think they can get to work faster in their cars don't see a comfortable and safe alternative.”
Earlier this year, Londoners and visitors to the city were able to celebrate the fourth anniversary of the launch of the Barclays hire scheme by borrowing bikes for free. It was also revealed that July had seen the highest ever monthly usage with 1,170,000 hires.