It appears that the rumours were true and we are indeed going to get a new bike share scheme.
Rising from the ashes of the ill-fated Oybike, the planned scheme looks to be much bigger, with 500 bikes scattered across Cardiff. However, this time it’ll be funded through sponsorship income, rather than the council’s budget.
Subject to a successful procurement the award of contract will be for an initial term of five years, with an option to extend for a further two years. The plan is to have the scheme fully commissioned and in operation by April 2017.
Understandably, this has led to a fair amount of discussion, with some people wondering if Cardiff is big enough; if there will be infrastructure to back it up and whether such a scheme can work here.
These are fair questions and warrant further exploration.
Is Cardiff big enough?
Cardiff is the perfect size. Roughly 5 miles across and mostly flat (if you ignore the ridge that Cyncoed sits on), it means that most people are a short ride from the centre of town. It takes us 25 minutes to get from the edge of Cardiff to the centre of town.
With the Council’s plan to entice motorists to use the Park & Ride sites dotted around the edge of Cardiff, placing a rack of self-service bikes here would be ideal –a great alternative to waiting for the bus.
We also have one mainline train station –Cardiff Central, but this is a good walk to most places, particularly Cardiff Bay, the Civic Centre, the Swalec Stadium and other conference venues. You could pick up a (let’s call them Diff Bikes for the purpose of this article) Diff Bike at the station and ride to your destination –particularly as you currently have to book your bike onto a First Great Western service if you want to bring it with you.
We also have an impressive number of hotels. One of the things we noticed Berlin do well is just how often you see hire stations outside hotels. Even our out-of-town hotels at Coryton are near the Taff Trail. The route back from the Copthorne would need some work though…
We have little doubt that people will at least try them, perhaps even those who are tempted to cycle, but don’t yet have a bike. It could prove to be a gateway to them buying their own and using it to get around town or to commute to work.
Where’s the infrastructure?
As we’ve discussed before, we’re at the start of a post-Active Travel Act journey. The Council has until September 2017 to come up with a set of integrated network maps, but by December they also plan to consult on a new cycling strategy.
This strategy will need to take in not just where routes will run, but locations of bike share points; bike parking; key destinations in relation to not just the Cardiff that exists now, but the new areas featured in the Local Development Plan.
There will be opportunities for all of us to get involved in shaping that over the next few months. We will keep a watchful eye on the Council website for new information, but there will be events to attend as well. Next week Cardiff Cycle City is holding a Q&A session with Councillor Chris Weaver in the hope of finding out what the current thinking is within the Council walls.
Can it work?
Yes, absolutely. As long as the costs and terms for the user are attractive; the bikes are good to ride and the locations are integrated with the public transport system and park & ride locations, there is absolutely no reason why it cannot work.
Of course, safe cycle routes will need to arrive in short order, but with an initial term of 5 years, Cardiff should be able to grow into them.