Preparations underway for ‘Boris bikes’ to arrive in Northampton

Bike hub installed in Mercer's Row. Picture by Sarah Huntley.
Bike hub installed in Mercer's Row. Picture by Sarah Huntley.

Cycle CoNNect - Northampton’s bicycle hire scheme - is set to launch later this month creating a low cost, convenient and sustainable way to travel about the town.

Set up by Northamptonshire County Council and highways service provider MGWSP in partnership with Northampton Borough Council, Brackmills Estate and the University of Northampton, the £150k initiative is initially providing 50 bikes for public hire from 10 docking sites inside and outside the borough.

The scheme will be similar to that pioneered by Boris Johnson in London.

Initially four hire hubs are being installed in time for the launch in Mercer’s Row, Beckett’s Park, Midsummer Meadow and in Pavilion Drive in Brackmills.

Six more hubs will then be established in the coming weeks at Northampton railway station (two hubs), University of Northampton (Avenue campus and Park campus) and Brackmills (Gowerton Road and Salthouse Road).

The first 30 minutes of cycling are free, with every additional hour of use costing £1 up to a maximum of £5 per day.

The bicycles are fully-adjustable for size and comfort, and designed for casual and more experienced cyclists. The hire system is entirely automatic and the bicycles will be available to hire at any time of the day, seven days a week.

Cllr Michael Clarke, county council cabinet member for transport, highways and environment, said: “I’m delighted that this initiative is launching in time for the summer and I hope we’re blessed with some good weather so people will be encouraged to have a go on our new Cycle CoNNect bikes.

“This system really is very easy to use and the docking stations are located in the key transport hubs in the town, which means the bikes are suitable for leisure rides, commuter journeys, shopping trips and student travel.

“We know that we’ve got a lot of work to do to bring our cycle network up to how we’d like it to be but I see this enterprise as taking us a great step forward in doing this.”

The scheme is being run by Hourbike Ltd, which has made provision to expand the initiative to further locations within the town, depending on its success and income from the hire process.

The company has experience of operating similar schemes in the UK, including in Dumfries, Nottingham, Lincoln and Southport. Hourbike also provided key assistance to Moscow’s bike hire scheme, which achieved 10,000 rentals in its first month.

Highlights of the scheme include:

50 bikes across 10 docking locations, including the town centre, Beckets Park, the University of Northampton Park and Avenue campuses and Brackmills Industrial Estate.

Low-cost and easy to use hire system

A unique website for registration and for members to top-up and manage their accounts

Pre-payment for use of bikes, similar to a pay as you go mobile phone.

Local telephone number with unique website

‘Cycle CoNNect’ was chosen as the name for the initiative through a competition, which attracted more than 500 entries from across the county, including many schoolchildren.

The name represents the network of connecting locations, from which the bicycles can be hired in a simple, quick and low-cost way. The ‘NN’ establishes the scheme as unique to the town and signifies the postcode of the county, easily recognisable to people living, travelling and visiting in Northamptonshire.

Jo Ewen, from Northampton, came up with the winning name and as a result won an iPad mini, which will be presented at the opening event.