Slough opposition leader criticises management and delivery of bicycle hire scheme

The leader of the opposition at Slough Borough Council has criticised the council’s management and delivery of its bicycle hire scheme.

Cllr Dexter Smith’s (Con, Colnbrook and Poyle) comments follow news that Slough Borough Council is looking for a new provider as the scheme comes to an end.

The existing Slough Cycle Hire scheme will end on Friday, July 1 as the council is no longer able to subsidise it.

Launched in 2013, the scheme grew to include 17 cycle hire stations across the town.

For £1, pay-as-you-go members were able to cycle for up to one hour, or users could choose a daily pass or a monthly membership.

The scheme meant that users could dock bikes across Slough, including at Slough and Burnham railway stations and popular Langley shopping areas.

SBC is issuing a new tender for a new provider which is able to run a modernised scheme at no cost to the council and one that could potentially feature e-bikes and newer, lighter bicycles.

Users who bought a subscription that will still be valid after the date of closing will be given a refund on a pro-rata basis.

Daily passes will still be available until Thursday, June 30.

Once the scheme has ended, the team will work with community groups to see if they are able to use the bikes and others will be repurposed and given to charity who will issue them to individuals on low income.

SBC’s transport team will review responses to the tender to aid in re-launching a cycle hire scheme in the town.

The council was recently awarded £10.4m to create a cycle highway route.

Cllr Mohammed Nazir, Slough Borough Council's lead member for transport and the local environment, said: “Thank you to everyone who has supported and enjoyed the Slough Cycle Hire scheme.

“While it has served us well up until this point, the council can no longer subsidise it.

“We remain committed to sustainable travel, and we are currently looking into alternative schemes.

“We are optimistic we can find a new provider who can bring a revitalised scheme to the town and encourage people to get on a bike to make their journeys, rather than always hopping in the car.

“If we reduce the number of short car journeys we make, the local environment will be cleaner and safer.”

Reacting to the news, Cllr Smith said: “This is another well-meaning and expensive green transport scheme that SBC has failed to properly manage and deliver. It follows on from the failure of the council's Cycle Hub at Slough train station.

“The council says it can no longer afford to subsidise this cycle hire project - that's a consequence of the council bankruptcy.”

He added: “It doesn't bode well for the proposed A4 Cycle Highways, and the council's e-scooter trial and bus lane scheme. What we need now are better cycleways going north-south through the town rather than always concentrating on the A4 and trying to force a shift in people's behaviour, let's reward good practice that's there already to grow further.”

Cllr Nazir responded: “We are changing the cycle hire model and aiming to procure a new supplier to revitalise the offer, including provision of e-bikes.

“Soft market testing indicates a desire amongst providers to work with us to offer a combined bike share/e-scooter scheme (the latter is subject to government legislation and Cabinet approval).

“The Cycle Hub was created to provide a facility for commuters but was costly to manage, with insufficient use.

“Although usage of cycle hire dropped off after COVID, this is likely because of changed ways of working, more people working from home and also competition from the e-scooter scheme.”

He added: “The e-scooters do not cost us anything, are very popular and are part of a trial until November.

“The bus lane is also for people on private bicycles of which there are many in Slough and we are looking at improving all the cycle routes across the town which is one of the reasons we have been given £10.4m to bring those plans to fruition.

“We are continuing to look at improving the cycling network and this has been documented in SBC’s LCWIP (Local Cycling and Walking Infrastructure Plan) which extends across the borough.”

To view future updates for the scheme, visit Slough Borough Council’s website at: www.slough.gov.uk/cycling/cycle-hire-slough

For any queries, email: betterby@slough.gov.uk

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