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System aimed at residents and tourists

Blackpool has launched the country's first large scale cycle hire scheme in a move aimed at transforming the resort's reputation. The £1m initiative, jointly funded by Cycling England, Blackpool NHS and the local council, is aimed at boosting tourism and its profile as a cycling destination.

The scheme is modelled on Paris’s popular Vélib' scheme, which uses a swipe card to take a bike from street-side depots, and Blackpool is starting with 60 bikes but the number will increase to 500 by May next year.

They will be located at 100 bike hubs located around Blackpool's Promenade and Pleasure Beach and in local parks to encourage cyclists to make use of the surrounding nature reserves and countryside.

Last year, Blackpool was named as one of 11 cycling towns and cities across England, opening up funding of £6m. Councillor Maxine Callow, Blackpool's cabinet member for tourism and regeneration, told the BBC: "I hope people will take the opportunity to make use of this clean, easy and affordable method of transport.

"They will be able to jump on a bike wherever they are and use it to get all over the town."

Cycling England said the investment was intended to pioneer cycling initiatives to get more people cycling more often.  Chairman Phillip Darnton said on the BBC: "It's going to be an enormous scheme."

The bikes will be available to visitors for a daily fee of £8, which gives riders unlimited access to bikes at any location, while residents or regular visitors can get a swipe card which allows them to hire a bike for £1 per hour, with the first 30 minutes free. The system will be run by Hourbike, a private company which operates a smaller scheme in Bristol.

But the London Cycle Hire Scheme, scheduledt to launch in summer 2010, is set to dwarf all other UK bike hire operations, and will launch with 6,000 hire bicycles based in 400 cycle docking stations based in the nine London boroughs and several Royal Parks that make up London’s zone one travel area, and it’s expected to generate around 40,000 extra cycle trips a day in central London.

Dublin also launched a cycle hire scheme called Dublinbikes at the weekend, which saw 1,150 bike journeys made on the first day. The council has 450 bicycles available from 40 stations between the Royal and the Grand canals.