Home
University and council at loggerheads over who should fund it

Reading’s bike hire scheme’s future is in chaos after University of Reading staff said it was not “financially viable".

Councillor Tony Page, the deputy leader of Reading Borough Council, had criticised the university for not offering to help fund the ReadyBike scheme, which is run by HourBike.

He said: "I think it's regrettable the university hasn't yet to put its hand in its collective pocket, bearing in mind the two most popular hubs are at the university."

But the university said the responsibility was not theirs to bear, and that they were ‘surprised’ to be lumbered with it.

A spokesperson said: "The current ReadyBike business model, determined by the council, is not financially viable for the long-term success of the scheme.

"ReadyBike is currently reviewing its plans for the future and the University is in regular contact with them about potential improvements to the scheme to help support it going forward.”

ReadyBike provides 200 bicycles for hire for residents and visitors from 29 locations in Reading and the surrounding area.

The council was originally to fund £130,000 in running costs, but austerity measures have meant this has been pulled and alternative measures have to be found to save the scheme.

Its current contractor requires a six month notice period so the scheme will be funded until August. Unless another funder is brought in, the scheme will fold.

Cllr Page said earlier this month, according to Get Reading: "ReadyBike is not some isolated council vanity project, it formed part of a very comprehensive bid to central government for local sustainable transport funding which secured around £25 million of investment.

"For the last couple of years the council has been subsidising the operation of ReadyBike and under the relentless onslaught of Government cuts it is a very difficult priority to argue that we should continue to subsidise to the tune of £130,000 a year the operation of Readybike.”

After an unpromising start, having to be bribed by her parents to learn to ride without stabilisers, Sarah became rather keener on cycling in her university years, and was eventually persuaded to upgrade to proper road cycling by the prospect of a shiny red Italian bike, which she promptly destroyed by trapping a pair of knickers in the rear derailleur. Sarah writes about about cycling every weekend on road.cc.

6 comments

Avatar
ChrisB200SX [623 posts] 12 months ago
0 likes

So the the council secured a £25 million sustainable transport fund and are now claiming they don't have the money?!

Avatar
szegerely [8 posts] 12 months ago
2 likes

The council recently presented figures that showed each bike does an average of 50 miles per month (1st 2 years of use, till 06/16) over 11 journeys per bike per month. That's 1 journey every 3 days roughly per bike, averaging 4.5 miles.
So, with £1.2M setup costs, plus 3 years running costs at £130Kpa, thats £1.6M to date spent. Thats £225 per bike per month running cost over 3 years. Or £20 per journey. Or £4.50 per mile. 
And the business case: £1 price per hour (assuming 1 journey). Net loss: £225 - £11 = £214 per bike per month  (3 years). You don't need a professor to tell you that won't work. That's about 250 families paying council tax every month to cover it.

Gets worse. Sponsorship cost ("list price" before negotiation) is £3400 per 10 bikes per year. That means at most this deal is worth £6800 towards the annual running cost of £130K+. So just another £125K+ to go.
 

Avatar
beezus fufoon [973 posts] 12 months ago
0 likes
szegerely wrote:

The council recently presented figures that showed each bike does an average of 50 miles per month (1st 2 years of use, till 06/16) over 11 journeys per bike per month. That's 1 journey every 3 days roughly per bike, averaging 4.5 miles.
So, with £1.2M setup costs, plus 3 years running costs at £130Kpa, thats £1.6M to date spent. Thats £225 per bike per month running cost over 3 years. Or £20 per journey. Or £4.50 per mile. 
And the business case: £1 price per hour (assuming 1 journey). Net loss: £225 - £11 = £214 per bike per month  (3 years). You don't need a professor to tell you that won't work. That's about 250 families paying council tax every month to cover it.

Gets worse. Sponsorship cost ("list price" before negotiation) is £3400 per 10 bikes per year. That means at most this deal is worth £6800 towards the annual running cost of £130K+. So just another £125K+ to go.
 

erm... £3400 for 10 = £68,000 for 200

£130,000/200 = £650 per year = £54.17 a month/11 = £4.93 per journey or /50 = just over £1 a mile

unless I'm misunderstanding these figures...

Avatar
Rod Marton [100 posts] 12 months ago
2 likes

Frankly this is nothing but a council vanity project and I, for one, wouldn't be unhappy to see it disappear. It is rare to see a Readybike in use: Szegerely's figures sound about right. In the interests of full disclosure I shall admit that I once used a Readybike, it's not an experience I wish to repeat. The bikes might be alright at low speed on a cyclepath, but in Reading's hostile road environment the lack of manoeverability and effective braking make them unsafe. I ride on one of these would be enough to convince a novice cyclist to get back in his car.

A better use of the money would be to improve the transport environment for cyclists, but in view of Reading Council's track record on this I'm not holding out any great hope.

Avatar
DaSy [784 posts] 12 months ago
0 likes

As an ex-resident of Reading (for nearly 50 years!), I had to check on Google StreetView to see if that amazing cycle lane still existed across the junction with Gower Street and the Oxford road. I was "pleased" to see it appears to still be there, a little faded, but still in existence.

I think this exemplifies Reading's commitment to cycling infrstructure.

 

 

Avatar
Miller [75 posts] 12 months ago
0 likes

I remember the justification for those fragments of cycle lane being that they warned drivers that a bike might appear.

About Readibike, while it feels churlish to complain about money being spent on cycling, to me it also comes across as a vanity project. Putting in hire bikes must have seemed the easy option by comparison with putting in road layout changes to make cycling more appealing. That would involve occasionally inconveniencing drivers and the council is clearly petrified about doing that.