Transport bosses could be set to bring a Parisian-style cycle loan scheme to the streets of Birmingham.
The city could be among the first in Britain to adopt French Velib or Free Bicycle scheme where pedestrians can borrow bikes from self-service racks around the city and lock them at another rack at the end of their journey.
In Paris the bikes are free for the first half-hour and then cost from one Euro, or about 80p, for the next half-hour, with a progressive charge scale to encourage people to keep the bikes in circulation.
The main aim is to slash congestion and the scheme has proved a big hit in the French capital.
Lib Dem councillor and member of the West Midlands transport authority Jerry Evans (Springfield) is pushing for a Birmingham Free Bicycle system.
He said: “I have looked at the scheme whilst in Paris and I am convinced that it would be a huge success in Birmingham.
“From an annual subscription of around £25 people can use the bike hire scheme on a daily basis for half an hour. The average time used per hire in Paris is 18 minutes as people use the bike for short journeys to save using their cars, because it easier and quicker.”
He said that the Paris Velib also generates about 20 millions Euros a year for Paris city hall.
“If such a scheme was introduced into Birmingham it could provide an income to the Council whilst easing congestion and cutting carbon emissions. It’s a win-win situation,” he added.
Birmingham City Council’s transport department is now looking at the cycle hire and are talking Coun Martin Mullaney (Lib Dem, Moseley and Kings Heath), chairman of the city’s transport scrutiny committee, confirmed that the transport department is in talks with the operator of the French scheme, billboard advertising firm JCDecaux.
The company already operates Birmingham City Council’s billboard advertising.
He said: “I am fully supportive of the free bike hire and we are already investigating bringing the scheme to Birmingham.”
A spokeswoman for Centro, the West Midlands Passenger Transport Authority, added that they are also supportive. She said: “As part of our five year business plan, we are looking at the possibility of bringing cycle hire schemes, similar to the successful system in Paris, to the region. We believe this would encourage more people to choose the bike as a travel choice instead of using less sustainable options.”
JCDecaux earlier this month admitted the Paris Velib had been run at a loss due to the costs of maintaining the 16,000 fleet plus replacement of 3,000 stolen bikes. But added that 20 other schemes on the continent are run at a profit.