Exeter has became the birthplace of an ambitious electric bike hire scheme which will be steadily replicated in cities nationwide to create a ‘revolution in urban travel’.
Spearheading the project, Exeter’s Co-bikes is aimed at making getting around the city easy, enjoyable and affordable by conveniently linking up other available forms of travel. Co-bikes achieves a number of UK firsts including first on-street city network of electric bikes and first electric bikes at a UK train station.
It’s is the first city-wide network of electric bikes for self-service hire by the public from on-street docking stations. Riders can hire, ride and drop the bikes off at any Co-bikes site – much like London’s ‘Boris Bike’ concept except purely with electric bikes.
The e-bikes are initially available at sites across Exeter, including Exeter Central train station, Exeter University and Sowton Park and Ride, with the civic centre and county hall coming later in 2016. Each dock has four to eight bikes and by spring 2017 the scheme will be extended to eight sites in and around the city.
Co-bikes is the brainchild of the team behind Exeter-based Co-cars, the fastest-growing hire-by-the-hour car club in the south west, with cars available across Exeter, Salisbury, Dorchester, Barnstaple and other towns. While the bikes are available for hire by anyone on spec, Co-bikes also offers joint membership with Co-cars. A single smart card gives members access to all of the bikes and cars under the Co-bikes/Co-cars umbrella. This is the first one-card membership scheme for car and bike hire in the UK.
Further, Co-bikes is the first UK electric bike member of the fast-growing global nextbike network which has normal UK bike share schemes in Bath, Milton Keynes, Coventry, Belfast, Stirling Glasgow and in more than 100 locations worldwide. This will give Co-bikes members automatic access to bikes at cities across the UK and overseas.
Mark Hodgson, managing director of Co-bikes and Co-cars said: ‘After years of planning, we’re very excited to be launching Co-bikes in Exeter. The Co-bikes electric bikes are changing the way that people travel around the city and are affordable and easy as well as being great fun to ride!
‘We all know that our cities are becoming more congested and spread-out, and a travel revolution is needed to help people more easily, quickly, enjoyably and affordably reach their business, study or leisure destinations. Electric bikes are the catalyst for this revolution and for an easy, enjoyable, electric Exeter. Because of their small footprint, they can easily be docked on the street by transport hubs, business and retail parks, and residential communities – helping people link up other transport options in the way that best suits them.’
Co-bikes is a flexible one-way hire service. The e-bikes can be hired and returned to any docking station on the Co-bikes network. Like its sister company Co-cars, Co-bikes are hired on a pay-as-you-go basis. People can hire the bikes on spec, or become a joint member of both organisations to gain discounts on both bike and car hire. Prices start from 75p per 30 mins for members and £1.50 for 30 mins for non-members.
The initiative has been launched with support from Department of Transport, Bikeplus, Devon County Council (which helped to fund the scheme), Great Western Railways, University of Exeter and Exeter City Council.
Councillor Stuart Hughes, Devon County Council cabinet member for highway management, said: ‘We’re pleased to have been able to help Co-bikes make this ground-breaking scheme in Exeter a reality.
‘The Co-bikes provide a truly sustainable travel choice that makes it easy to get around the city, and opens up the option of travelling by bike to more people. The initiative complements the county council’s infrastructure improvements, such as the new rail stations in and around Exeter as part of the Devon Metro, to help tackle congestion and support economic growth.’