Exeter's first electric bike docking hubs have been installed in preparation for the roll-out of a new city-wide hire scheme.
Co-cars, the fastest growing hire-by-the-hour car club in the South West, is extending its service in Exeter and the Exe estuary area with the upcoming launch of Co-bikes.
Members will be able to hire battery-assisted e-Bikes from hubs at Exeter Central stations, County Hall, the Civic Centre and Digby & Sowton, with more to come.
The first hubs have been installed at Exeter Central and Digby & Sowton park and ride, with a third due to arrive next week. Bikes are expected to be available to hire within the next few weeks, though no launch date has yet been confirmed.
Mark Hodgson, founder and managing director of Co-cars, said: “We are currently testing the docking hubs, so we’re working hard and it will be ready soon. We have spent a lot of time getting to this point and we need to get this right.
“There’s been a lot of interest when we’ve been installing the hubs and cycling the bikes around Exeter.”
The full network of docking hubs is expected to be up and running later in the year.
In the first phase of the scheme, 23 bikes will be available to rent for periods of between 30 minutes and 24 hours, with more due to be added as the scheme grows.
The e-Bikes have a range of 40 to 60 miles of adjustable, power-assisted pedalling.
The scheme has been part-funded by the Department for Transport through Bikeplus, Devon County Council and Great Western Railway, and is supported by Exeter City Council.
Co-cars, a not-for-profit social enterprise, secured the funding due to its track record of running financially successful shared transportation schemes, and Exeter’s potential customer base, with more than 3 million rail passenger journeys a year, more than 30,000 business staff and students at targeted sign up locations, and 500 established users of the Co-cars car club.
When the scheme was announced in September last year, Mark said: “We’re really excited about this new offering. e-Bikes are the logical next step for us, increasing the great options of shared on-demand and low carbon travel to our members – and to the city as a whole. With one card you’ll be able to access both our e-Bikes and our low emission cars across the South West.”
The e-Bike, provided by Nextbike, has a Dutch-style frame with a 600w Pedelec motor, seven gears, lights, comfort seat, an on-board computer, front carrier, front suspension, disc brakes, integrated locking system and a cable lock which can be used to secure the bikes at any location.
Members will be able to scan using a smartphone app, or swipe their smart membership card, to unlock the e-Bike and begin transmitting their travel information direct to their account for monthly payment.
New customers are able to simply turn up and book directly from the touch-and-pay terminals using a credit card.
Victoria Hatfield, economy and tourism manager at Exeter City Council, said: “Exeter’s rapid and continuing growth has made cross-city travel and parking a challenge. This could threaten to impact people’s well-being, business efficiency and collaboration amongst our world-renowned knowledge economy, as well as air quality and the city’s desirability.
“However, by developing an integrated, sustainable transport network – of which e-Bikes are a crucial part – we’re addressing all these issues, and fast establishing Exeter as a leading, smart ‘sharing’ city that is the envy of many.”
Councillor Stuart Hughes, Devon County Council cabinet member for highway management, said: “This scheme is another piece in the jigsaw of infrastructure improvements to support economic growth while opening up travel choices and tackling congestion. It builds on other work such as the Devon Metro to offer joined up transport solutions across the city, making maximum use of the major assets such as the rail network. The e-bikes are a convenient and effortless way to get around on two wheels and we're pleased to be working with Co-cars on this initiative.”
Story found on the Express & Echo: http://www.exeterexpressandecho.co.uk/co-bikes-electric-bicycle-hire-scheme-to-launch-soon-in-exeter/story-29716034-detail/story.html