25 March 2015

£Im won for shared ‘Brighton Bikes’ scheme

Over £1m has been won from the government for a shared bike scheme in Brighton & Hove.  Funding would be subject to a condition ensuring there would be no future public subsidy.

The Coast to Capital Local Enterprise Partnership (LEP) has just agreed the money, at a meeting in Chichester today (March 25).

The scheme would see 430 bikes available from 50 docking stations, serving the city from the marina to Portslade and along the Lewes Road to the universities.

It is expected the service will be operational in the 2016/17 financial year.

The plan would eliminate around 300,000 car journeys a year from the city, helping reduce congestion, improve air quality and speed journey times.

Total costs would be £1.4m, with £1.16m coming from the LEP grant, plus a further £290,000 from local sources.  This would include an initial £60,000 from the council.  However a condition of the grant says there must be no further public subsidy.

Around six staff would be required for the scheme, which would be run as a social enterprise, offering training and apprenticeships.

Around 46 per cent of households in the scheme area do not own a car.  Yet research has shown a main reason people do not cycle is that they do not own a bike – about half of households do not have one.

It is intended the scheme will help link existing or planned major employment sites and housing such as Circus Street, the i360, the proposed Brighton Waterfront development, Valley Gardens and Preston Barracks.  For tourists it would provide quick links between the stations, seafront and key attractions. Future expansion could offer access to the South Downs National Park.

The scheme would bring benefits for road safety valued at £19,000 a year, £147,000 for health, £33,000 on absenteeism, plus other benefits for users valued at £447,000 a year.  It would also tackle physical inactivity which costs local health services over £3m a year.

The project is backed by public and private sector partners including Southern Railway, both universities, Regency GP surgery, the city’s public health department, Brighton & Hove Buses, Velo Café and the Brighton & Hove Economic Partnership. 

Lead councillor for transport Ian Davey said “It’s wonderful that the Local Enterprise Partnership have agreed to provide over £1m towards the start-up costs of a public bike share system for the city. The idea has the support of the local business community who recognise the economic benefits it could bring and our partners in health who recognise the health benefits of more active travel. We will now work with the LEP to start the procurement process to find the right partners to run a successful system for Brighton & Hove.”

Doctor Rachel Cottam, sustainability lead at the local clinical commissioning group said: "This is fantastic news for the citizens of Brighton & Hove - and for the local health economy.  Exercise really is the 'magic pill' - just 15 minutes a day can help prevent heart disease, some forms of cancer, depression and dementia.  There is also strong evidence that people who use 'active travel' are less stressed and less likely to take time off work, but exercise is of value for people of all ages.  We hope that the bike share scheme will help the people of Brighton & Hove stay healthy."

Nigel Lambe, Chairman of Small Batch Coffee, Velo Cafe and Bold Decisions Consulting said:  “I am delighted that the Local Enterprise Partnership has agreed to invest in a bike hire scheme for Brighton & Hove. We have been working on the business case for the hire scheme for over a year and I have discussed the concept with many local businesses. It is clear that the scheme has proved very popular with the Brighton business community.

“It will make Brighton a better place to live and a better place to work and also give further assistance to the hospitality trade by making Brighton & Hove a better place to visit.”

Exact details of how the service will operate and hire costs are yet to be announced.  Schemes elsewhere typically involve users swiping a credit or debit card through the docking station and following on-screen instructions to release the cycle.  Bikes can be returned to any docking station, where they are automatically re-locked into position.