The first batch of new Big Birmingham Bikes have been handed out to eager commuters as part of a £24 million scheme to get the city cycling.
A total of 40 bikes were handed over to their new owners in Victoria Square – the start of a 5,000 bike giveaway under the council’s Birmingham Cycle Revolution scheme.
A GPS satellite tracker, fitted inside the bike’s frame, is not only an anti-theft device but will allow the organisers to monitor use of the bikes.
By the end of the project they will be able to see instantly how many extra cycle miles the scheme has generated.
Among the first to pick up his distinctive orange Raleigh bike was DJ and hotel worker Wantousy Remy. He said the bike would cut time from his regular commute between Moseley and the city centre.
“By bus it takes 25 to 30 minutes, on a bike about 15 minutes,” he said. “Getting there by bike will be much easier and I won’t be stuck in traffic. This is a great scheme.”
About 3,000 bikes are being given to people who applied last year. The scheme is aimed at those who would find the cost of buying a bike prohibitive and applicants had complete a ‘bikeability’ and cycle maintenance courses.
They were selected from a draw and had to agree to use the bike for a significant journey at least once a week for six months. It is hoped that as well as cutting road congestion the scheme will improve the health of those who take part. Further bikes are being issued to leisure centres dotted around the city for hire schemes.
The giveaway was one of a range of events taking place throughout the city for National Bike Week including an exhibition in Victoria Square.
Council cabinet member for sustainability Lisa Trickett applauded the Big Birmingham Bikes scheme and said the event showed that the first 40 budding cyclists were from all backgrounds – men and women and a range of ethnic groups.
She said: “It’s wonderful to see the enthusiasm here today. This is all part of our Birmingham Cycle Revolution programme to get the city cycling. These kinds of activities help to encourage cycling in all forms from leisure rides to commuting and cycling for fitness.
“We are especially keen to encourage those people on shorter journeys to use a bike instead of their car.”
She added that they are also improving cycle routes alongside canals, creating new and improved links and across parks and green spaces and also improving cycling facilities on major routes around the city.
There is also investment in training courses for people and schemes aimed at children in the pipeline.
The £24 million Birmingham Cycle Revolution scheme has been backed with Department for Transport funding and, as well as the free bike initiative, it will see cycle routes and cycle lanes improved or introduced to encourage more commuting by bike – including the upgrading of canal towpaths.
Organisers also hope that by encouraging more people to cycle they will have a positive impact on the health of the city – by reducing obesity rates and cutting car pollution.
Last month, a rush hour experiment found that cycling from the city centre to Cannon Hill Park at 5pm took 18 minutes compared to 30 minutes by car. A bus took 45 minutes.