Students cash in on bike hire revolution
Boris and Barclays' mammoth bike scheme in the capital may be getting all the column inches, but on university campuses across the country, fleets of bikes are already available for hire, and from September the concept will be shifting up a gear.
Schemes in Leeds and York – which offer university students and staff cheap bike hire for up to nine months at a time – are already well-established and growing in scale, and next month will be rolled out to campuses in Lincoln, Nottingham and Lancaster. The Nottingham project will start out with 460 bikes, with plans to increase this number next year.
But it is the new venture in Newcastle that really catches the eye. Start-up WhipBikes, the brainchild of Robert Grisdale and Jack Payne, two former civil engineering students, takes the concept to the next level with a 24-hour-a-day, mobile phone-operated "green bike" scheme.
Once registered, students will simply have to locate a bike, text the bike number to an automated service that sends back the code to unlock it, and get pedalling. The 50p a journey cost will be charged straight to the student's phone.
Members of the scheme will have their mobile number put on a database to reduce the risk of damage or theft, and the founders are currently working on a tracking system that will make the system more secure and allow registered students to locate their nearest bike on the web.
"The UK's been pretty rubbish for a long time in promoting cycling," says Robert, who is confident that the simplicity of the WhipBike scheme will attract interest in other cities. "Our unique selling point is that we're not restricted by infrastructure. You can lock the bike up anywhere that has a regular bike rack. Once the tracking device is up and running, it could be a better all-round system than the one in London."
While London's "Barclays bikes" have already been plastered with stickers denouncing the sponsors' involvement in the global arms trade, the first 150 WhipBikes – which are "less bulky" and "better looking" than their counterparts in the capital – will be adorned with advertisements for education charity Teach First and the student union...>> Read More
Source: The Guardian Online
October 4, 2010, 10:53 am