Five virtual docking stations have been launched in Harborne, in Birmingham, thanks to the support of Harborne Village Business Improvement District (BID).
The two-month trial is the latest development of the popular West Midlands Cycle Hire scheme. This trial is the first time virtual docking stations have been used as part of West Midlands Cycle Hire and will enable users to end their ride and park their bike in a signposted and branded area, rather than in a traditional physical dock.
These kinds of docks have the potential to open up the scheme across the region, giving people more locations to start or end their journey, without the need for investment in additional infrastructure. There will be five locations in Harborne available for people to start and finish their journeys, located on Greenfield Road, High Street, Lordswood Road, Quinton Road and Barlows Road.
This trial makes Harborne the latest area in the region where local people are able to access the bikes, which have taken over 200,000 journeys since launch in March 2021. With virtual docking stations, users end their rides as normal by pressing down on the yellow lever near the front tyre of the bike.
Each of the new five docking stations will be equipped with five bikes and will be re-distributed from the current fleet to increase availability of the scheme. The total fleet of bikes is 1,500 with a split of 1,350 green and grey branded pedal bikes and 150 green and purple electric bikes.
Cabinet member for education, skills and culture and Harborne ward cllr Jayne Francis said: “The West Midlands Cycle Hire scheme has proven successful in Birmingham and I’m delighted that Harborne has been chosen to take part in this trial so that local people can benefit. As a director of Harborne BID, I am also really grateful to local businesses for supporting this initiative.
“Having the scheme available will give people who live in Harborne the chance to get back on the bike after a long break, and get out for fun, fitness or to explore somewhere new. Through our Transport Plan, we are determined to see more people replace shorter car journeys with cycling and to see walking and cycling as the first choice for trips around their local neighbourhood.”
Kate Smart, Harborne Village BID manager said; “As a proactive high street we wanted to offer our community and businesses an additional means to travel to Harborne. This pilot scheme supports the BID’s environmental agenda, whilst helping our visitors keep active and healthy.”
West Midlands cycling and walking commissioner, Adam Tranter said: “What a great opportunity this is to see what the future of Cycle Hire could look like.
“We know from the data that people aren’t just using these bikes for leisure, but also for A-B journeys and as part of their commute. The Cycle Hire scheme is a great asset to the region and we naturally want to open it up to as many people as we can so we’re happy to work on this innovative trial.
“We’re grateful to the support of the local community and the local BID in enabling us to see how virtual docks could help us expand in the future. It’s my ambition as Commissioner to make cycling accessible to all and a trial of this nature presents another potential solution to giving more people choice in how they choose to travel.”
The scheme, the largest in the UK outside London, was introduced by Transport for West Midlands (TfWM) as a convenient and more environmentally friendly alternative to the car for shorter journeys and is a large part of wider active travel plans for the region, to achieve the target of 5% of journeys taken by bike by 2023.
West Midlands Cycle Hire is operated by Serco under a five-year contract from TfWM, which is part of the West Midlands Combined Authority (WMCA). The bikes, docking stations and locking mechanisms are all manufactured in the region, with the bikes manufactured by Stratford-upon-Avon based company Pashley.
Charges are in place for people who dock incorrectly, a £5 charge if the bike is left outside of the virtual dock and a £10 charge if the ride ends outside the designated area detailed on the Beryl app.