VIDEO: Cycle hire scheme launches in Northampton town centre

An ‘innovative’ bicycle hire scheme was launched by council leaders in Northampton town centre today (Tuesday).

Cllr David Mackintosh, leader of Northampton Borough Council, and Cllr Jim Harker, leader of Northamptonshire County Council, cut the ribbon at the official launch event of Cycle CoNNect in Mercer’s Road this morning. Cllr Mackintosh said: “We’re really pleased to be here today. We hope this will be a successful scheme and look forward to seeing people riding around the town on the bikes.”

Launch of Cycle Connect bikes in Northampton town centre NNL-140715-121714001

Launch of Cycle Connect bikes in Northampton town centre NNL-140715-121714001

Cycle CoNNect - similar to the ‘Boris bikes’ already available in London - has been designed to create 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 provides 50 bikes for public hire from 10 docking sites inside the borough.

Six hubs were opened today and the remaining four will open in the autumn.

Cllr Michael Clarke, county council cabinet member for transport, highways and environment, said: “What they’re doing in London, we can do just as well if not better in Northampton.

Launch of Cycle Connect bikes in Northampton town centre NNL-140715-121702001

Launch of Cycle Connect bikes in Northampton town centre NNL-140715-121702001

“We’ve got utility bikes here which anybody can ride, more or less any age, they’re unisex, they’re hard wearing bikes so they’re not going to be prone to accidents. They will do the job and we hope they will whet people’s appetites to go out and buy a bike and use a bike more often in the future.”

Hire costs £1 up to one hour, then £1 for each additional hour up to a maximum of £5 per day. However initially, as a promotional offer, the first 30 minutes of each journey will be free of charge.

Registration is free, though on registration, users will have to add an initial £3 of credit to their account, which will remain in place until they use it for rentals.

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 Harker said: “The scheme we have in Northampton, obviously following the success of the Boris bikes in London, we thought it was a really innovative opportunity for Northampton to promote both the health and wellbeing agenda as well as the congestion agenda and a healthier way of getting around the town. In particular we’re getting a lot of students now coming to live in the town centre, a lot of young people can cycle from here to there and of course the scheme is really good value.”

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 was presented at the opening event.

The six hubs that will be available from today are in Mercer’s Row, Beckett’s Park and Midsummer Meadow and in Gowerton Road, Salthouse Road and Pavilion Drive on the Brackmills industrial estate.

In the autumn hubs will be available at Northampton railway station (two hubs) and the University of Northampton (Avenue campus and Park campus).