A £300,000 three-year deal with Coca Cola will help ensure that Belfast’s bike-share scheme becomes a reality this spring. In the run-up to the official launch in April, the BBC reports that anyone aged 14 and over who can ride a bike will also be able to apply for free on-road training.
The bike share scheme will initially comprise 300 public bikes and 30 bike docking stations in the city centre. 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.
While some have suggested that few people will be won over by cycling if the city doesn’t first sort out its infrastructure, it is hoped that free training sessions may help encourage more people to make use of the bikes. The sessions, organised by Sustrans, have already begun and Gordon Clarke, director for Sustrans Northern Ireland, said they were focused on ensuring safety.
"What we're saying is you have to share the city centre. If you're a cyclist or pedestrian, you're more vulnerable, so we want bus drivers – and we've been working with them, with DRD and with Translink – we want taxi drivers, all the drivers to think of each other; and cyclists to be aware of drivers as well."
The Department for Regional Development provided funding of £1.1 million for the bikes and docking stations, while the council will provide ongoing financial support for management of the scheme over the next six years. The Belfast Telegraph reports that Coca Cola has come on board as sponsor and will pay £300,000 over the next three years.
Belfast Lord Mayor, Nichola Mallon, said:
“Thanks to the sponsorship, we will be able to provide this fantastic new addition to Belfast’s infrastructure at a very low cost to users. By keeping down the price of both the annual membership and the hire charges, we are hoping people in Belfast will embrace the benefits of cycling around the city to go about their day to day business.”
Frank O’Donnell, general manager of Coca Cola HBC Ireland and Northern Ireland, said that the firm’s investment in what will become known as Coca‑Cola Zero Bikes was part of a wider commitment to help encourage active healthy lifestyles. Last week we reported how Coca Cola were competing with Santander to replace Barclays as the new sponsor of London’s cycle hire scheme – albeit the Spanish bank are said to be favourite to win the battle – while Dublin’s dublinbikes scheme is also backed by Coca-Cola Zero.