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Belfast Bikes to keep first 30 minutes free of charge

By Allan Preston

Free time on Belfast Bikes will be kept at 30 minutes, the city council has decided.

The first half-hour has been free since the scheme launched, but a council proposal aimed to halve this to save £15,000.

Yesterday the council's strategic policy and resources committee voted against the move.

Alliance councillor Michael Long welcomed the decision and said the proposed savings were not enough to justify a change.

"The Belfast Bikes scheme has been hugely successful, whether on improving people's health, changing the infrastructure of the city or attracting more tourists," he added. "I hope that this vote means that success remains.

"The proposed saving of £15,000 is not a large amount in relation to a budget of £150m, particularly given the obvious benefits (of the scheme).

"The 30 minutes free is one of the most appealing parts of the scheme, so I am delighted we have now saved that aspect.

"It is crucial we do not stop there but continue to help the scheme grow and expand, particularly more widely into suburban areas, as well as other locations in the city centre."

In September, the Belfast Telegraph revealed that the programme could cost the council up to £200,000.

Despite attracting 4,000 annual subscribers since its launch in April 2015, the scheme has failed to cover maintenance costs as the council hoped.

It is suspected that some people use Belfast Bikes without paying a penny by carefully planning their journeys so they do not exceed their free time.

The current price is £20 for an annual subscription, and £5 for three days.

Alternatively, the bikes can also be rented for 50p an hour, £1.50 for two hours, £2.50 for three hours and £4.50 for four hours.

Belfast Bikes is operated by public sector service specialist NSL on behalf of the council with the support of the Department for Infrastructure.

The scheme has been hugely popular, with more than a quarter of a million journeys undertaken since launch.

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