Wednesday, 25 July 2012

Ideas from Newcastle

Another flying visit, this time to Newcastle.

The bike hire was slightly different from Bath in that there were fewer stands at each location and presumably more sites.

Again I didn't see any being ridden and they don't look anything like as robust as the London bikes.

And there were a few advertising bikes, but not as many as Bath.

Of course, I can't fail to mention the bridge...

The one new idea for me were these mobile tourist information trikes, complete with attendant.

One of which I found later at the station,

locked to a pillar with a notice saying "please do not leave bicycles in this area." But then it's a trike, so I suppose it's ok...


  1. Do we have the bike hire thing in Manchester yet? I've never noticed it but it would be so handy, i'm tired of walking from northern quarter to up oxford road and to the bus stations etc.

  2. The Newcastle hire scheme looks a lot like the stations are not "digitally enabled" in the sense that they're not connected up with their own keypads and screens etc. I can't help but feel that a keeping a scheme simple like this - sheffield stands and padlocks - makes it a lot cheaper to run and easier to use (as long as the text service works). Much easier to upgrade the bikes for instance. Looks like about 23 stations up to 3 miles apart.

    The Copenhagen system works much like shopping trolleys in a supermarket. Put a coin in a slot (as a deposit) to release the bike. Dock it elsewhere and get your coin back. No time limit. No charge. Really simple. Mind you, the bikes I saw were rubbish, fairly sparse and mostly knackered.

    Anyway, it's encouraging to see schemes like this popping up outside London. I had no idea so thank you for pointing them out!

    @RoRface, the only scheme I'm aware of in Manchester is the Brompton Dock - folding bikes in lockers at Piccadilly station, with a text message based system. There's only the one station and I think the intention is that you can keep them longer, even a week or more, rather than short hops around town.

    Sorry for the long comment!

  3. Tim - you are generally correct about Brompton Dock bike hire, and the report on Newcastle also misses a couple of details on the low cost bike sharing scheme.

    Brompton Dock is mainly directed at people hiring bikes and keeping them - for as long as possible. Hence the rates come down to encourage long hires, as this means additional bikes can be put in to the lockers to hire out. When a bike sharing scheme like London needs empty docking points, you need to provide a minimum of 50% more docking points than bikes to ensure the fleet circulates, and if there is an extreme tidal flow you may even need 100% more stands. By contrast a manual pilot scheme for Brompton Dock had 100 bikes on hire and only 50 storage bays at the hire point - mostly empty.

    Thus a 40 bike unit in Manchester will probably have 80 bikes on hire, or even more, and once signed up for Manchester you will be able to hire bikes at any other location (currently Stoke on Trent, Ealing Broadway, and soon to be Guildford, and at least 20 more rolling out this year. The cost per bike with Brompton Dock is substantially lower than the Barclays system. One detail with the Brompton dock is that you can book a bike, or a space to return a bike in advance, the night before, or with a 1 hour window before you arrive at the dock.

    The Newcastle system is similar to the German Call-a-Bike which has been running since 2001. The bike abd dock are combined into one item so no on street equipment is needed. That does make the bikes more expensive that basic bikes with a locking plate, but it does allow the system to be rebalanced very easily.

    The Newcastle scheme has a more radical detail though - if you purchase a Go Northeast Keycard for discounted bus travel, you automatically get free membership of the Scratchbikes hire scheme AND the Smartmoves car sharing scheme. A 1-stop travel deal already common outside the UK, and potentially an extension of the TfGM travelcard offer.