We’ve had whitewash; we’ve had greenwash; now – courtesy of Bristol’s Cycling Demonstration City initiative – is it time for bikewash?
One of the few actual promises we’ve had to accompany the Cycling Demonstration City money the city’s just got – if we ignore ‘Bristol’s Cycling Champion’ Terry Cook’s latest plans to close down the road network on a regular basis to run family-friendly cycling days on the ‘Bristol’s Biggest Bike Ride’ model, which will improve the cycling stats and meet the targets while missing the point entirely – has been the promise of “the UK’s first major bicycle rental network, modelled on a scheme in Paris”.
Run by a company called Hourbike, a subsidary of a civil engineering multinational Vipre, the proposal is to set up around 20 bike hire stands across the centre of the city and run a fully automated bike rental system on a pay as you go basis.
“For a joining fee of just £10,” they say, “the first half hour of each rental is free with subsequent time charged at £1 per hour.”
Which has had a few of us scratching our heads and wondering how they intend to actually make any money. Leaving aside the fact that the vast majority of people who wish to cycle in the city tend to make the effort to own a bike and don’t need to rent one, how will the company get any income if all the proposed stands are centrally based and less than a half hour’s ride apart?
Are Hourbike some sort of charity? They must be when you consider that they’ll be needing a few thousand paying journeys a week to make the scheme financially viable and they’re simply not going to get them.
But wait! What’s this on the Hourbike website?
Fantastic Advertising Packages Available
Align your brand with this innovative, green and healthy transport option for Bristol. There are various opportunities to advertise – on docking stations across the City and train stations, on membership cards and on our website.
Surely the real plan isn’t to shove 20 large, unsightly advertising hoardings (surely docking stations? Ed.) up in prime city centre locations with a few hire bikes locked on to them for effect … Is it?
And if that is the plan, let’s hope someone’s had the foresight to talk to Adshel, that charming little subsidary of that charming US communication empire Clear Channel, who have maintained a lucrative monopoly on Bristol’s city centre street furniture advertising for many years now under the guise of the Legible City Scheme.
The deal always was that Asdshel hand over their crappy street furniture free of charge to the council while the council, in return, prosecute the hell out of fly posters and hand over the multi-million pound advertising rights on the furniture for free.
Let’s hope Councillor Cook, his Cycling Demonstration City boys and Hourbike have thought this through properly then, or they might find themselves engaged in a hugely entertaining battle with one of the most aggressive corporations on the planet.