Brighton & Hove’s BTN BikeShare scheme is to pause operations from 31 December in preparation for a new look scheme to launch next year.
Bikes will begin to be removed from service from Monday 19 December and close for hires by 31 December.
After five years on the street and despite a significant programme of refurbishments, the current fleet of bikes is showing wear. They have also been experiencing technical issues since April due to the strength of Vodafone’s 3G signal which they rely on.
This has meant a significant percentage of bikes have been unusable for long periods of time. We understand that Vodafone’s 3G signal will be switched off entirely from 1 March.
The scheme will be withdrawn over the winter months when overall usage is lower, with a refreshed scheme launched next year.
Annual memberships and renewals were paused in May in preparation for a new scheme, but anyone with an existing annual membership will be given the option of being refunded for their remaining unspent months or can donate this to a local cycling charity.
Pay as you go members, active in the last 8 weeks, with unspent balances of more than £3 at 31 December 2022 can also request to reclaim or donate these.
A new-look bike scheme
The pause will allow us to fully prepare for the launch of a new-look scheme in 2023 which will see several changes and improvements introduced, including:
- At least 60% of the new fleet of bikes will be electric
- 312 new pedal-only bikes to replace the existing pedal-only fleet with a further 468 E-bikes to make up a fleet of 780 total.
- More bike docking stations around the city to make the scheme truly city wide
- A range of tariff options for users
- A new sponsor partnership offer
We’ll be setting out a provisional timeline later this month for the new scheme’s rollout.
Issues affecting current scheme
The issues with the 3G signal have caused a lot of disruption for BTN BikeShare staff and its thousands of users. We’re disappointed in Vodafone’s lack of communication with us on this issue. The council’s Chief Executive wrote to Vodafone UK’s Board of Directors to ask for a resolution but has not received a reply.
The 3G problems have also taken up a significant amount of time and resource from the operator which has also impacted on the repairs and maintenance of the fleet.
The software provider has had to pass on their increased costs to the operator due to these issues, but has agreed to continue their service up until 31 December.
The combination of these technical and repair issues, as well as the general wear and tear, means the scheme cannot continue to function as it is. The safety of users must also be our priority.
Councillor Steve Davis, Co-Chair of the Environment, Transport and Sustainability committee said: “We recognise that this news is disappointing and share the disappointment of users that we are having to pause the scheme, however we’re fully committed to seeing the return next year of a new-look bike scheme for Brighton & Hove.
“I’m very disappointed that the city council hasn’t had any response from Vodafone UK concerning the problems experienced with the 3G signal. I would have expected more from such a large company. These issues have inconvenienced thousands of residents and visitors around the city.
“I’d like to thank council and HourBike staff for their hard work during what has been a very challenging time for BTN BikeShare. Their dedication and perseverance have ensured the scheme has continued to operate, albeit on a more limited basis, during another busy year.
“However, the issues relating to the age of the fleet and Vodaphone 3G have now made the continuation untenable and the scheme needs a refresh for the benefit of our residents and visitors.
“While the scheme will pause for a short time at the beginning of next year, I’m looking forward to a bigger and better BTN BikeShare in 2023 with a new fleet, electric bikes and more docking stations”.
“BTN BikeShare is something Brighton & Hove can be proud of now and in the future.”
Bright future for BTN BikeShare
BTN BikeShare has been a very popular scheme since it was launched in September 2017 with more than 1.75 million journeys made covering nearly 4 million miles in that time. We are renewing the scheme to build on this success.
The new-look scheme will introduce electric bikes into the fleet for the first time, provide people with a range of tariff options and increase the number of bikes available for people to use.
BTN BikeShare is a scheme the city can be proud of and we look forward to a bright new future when the scheme returns in 2023.