Other cities are already tentatively declaring interest in mimicking the part Barclays-funded hire scheme, which can only be positive news for cycling nationwide.
Merseyside City Council has reportedly put out a tender calling on interested businesses to submit their vision for a cycle hire scheme on the streets of Liverpool.
Then there’s Edinburgh, York, Newcastle, Birmingham and an indecisive Bristol City Council. So that’s several of the countries forward-thinking big cities on board then.
London’s Cycle Hire was allegedly dreamed up some ten years ago when Ken Livingstone was in office, though the Liberal Democrats are now claiming it was their idea... As put by Road.cc: “One sure sure fire sign that a scheme is working is when politicians across the political spectrum start claiming the credit for its creation.”
The ‘Boris Bikes’, though too early to really conclusively say, are being hailed as a success, so, for now let’s assume the scheme will be mimicked nationwide over the coming years.
So, what does that mean for cycle retailers? Will bike sales suddenly dip in areas where the only wheels on the road are hired steeds? After all, BikeBiz’s own Carlton Reid has snapped empty docking stations in Paris before now and reports having had difficulty tracking down a hire bike, so surely those hired bikes are lost sales?
If precedent in Paris, Lyon, Monteal and other cities running similar ‘pay as you roll’ programmes is anything to go by, then no, quite the opposite effect is to be expected. Sales in all of these cities were shown to have either remained steady, or increased – largely down to ‘new’ cyclists trying hire bikes and rediscovering the joy of pedal power. Having tried the heavier hire bikes, the ‘have-a-go’ riders largely went in search of better bikes to call their own. Nothing to worry about then.
A rumour found its way to me recently that the owner of a store local to BikeBiz was on his way back from grabbing a bite to eat and decided to cheekily ask customers exiting a neighbouring off licence if they fancied taking up cycling. They said they’d hired a few bikes on a recent holiday and enjoyed the experience. Half an hour later they were the proud owners of shiny new steeds. If only all sales were as straightforward. Perhaps some could be, what’s to lose?