Belfast Telegraph

Belfast bike scheme's £20,000 theft and vandalism bill

By Linda Stewart

The cost of theft and vandalism to the Belfast Bikes scheme has risen to almost £20,000 this year - an almost tenfold increase.

According to a report, Belfast City Council it is considering increasing security by installing CCTV or dummy cameras near bike stations.

Earlier this year, the council removed bikes from certain points overnight after they were identified as crime hotspots.

Since then, however, the problem has grown, with all stations now affected to some extent.

Police have punished six people, with two community orders issued and another on the way. One case has been referred to the Public Prosecution Service and two more are pending.

Theft and vandalism cost the scheme £1,805 in its first year, rising to £18,807 in year two.

The scheme has 41 docking stations, with two more planned for Carlisle Circus and Twin Spires on the Falls Road, funded under the Building Successful Communities Fund.

However, Belfast City Council's City Growth and Regeneration Committee is set to hear next week that a strategic review of the scheme will be undertaken before any further developments.

City council director of development Donal Durkan said in his report for the committee: "This review will work at a number of elements, including how to resolve the vandalism challenge, pricing policy, policy for deciding the locations for any future expansion of the scheme and opportunities for alignment with wider city developments, e.g. link to new regeneration schemes, partnerships with major conferences and future financing options, including sponsorship."

Officers are also carrying out further action in parallel with the review.

Jonathan Hobbs, editor of Bikefest.org, said the problem needed to be solved quickly.

"Belfast Bikes is a cheap, socially inclusive transport from just £20 a year, and free journeys under 30 mins places this within the budget of everyone," Mr Hobbs added.

"Belfast needs to come together as one united community to stop this pointless destruction.

"The council needs to solve the mystery of bikes being stolen with apparent ease and solve it quickly.

"We're on the brink of losing one important and popular solution to our urban mobility needs."

The PSNI urged the public to report any incidents of vandalism.

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