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Cost of Belfast Bikes rental may increase

By Rebecca Black

Belfast Bikes could be set to get more expensive to rent.

They are currently free for the first 30 minutes, but this period of grace could be reduced to 15 minutes, in a bid by Belfast City Council to save money.

The matter was discussed at a meeting of the council's Strategic Policy and Resources committee last month, and is set to be raised again at the next meeting of the committee tomorrow.

Alliance councillor Michael Long, has objected to the proposal, claiming it would "only save £15,000".

The Belfast Telegraph revealed last September that the scheme could be set to cost the council up to £200,000.

Although the Coca-Cola Zero Belfast Bikes initiative has attracted more than 4,000 annual subscribers since its launch in April 2015, the figures are not adding up for the City Council. It had been hoping that the revenue raised by the programme would pay for the scheme's maintenance.

Belfast Bikes is operated by public sector service specialist NSL, on behalf of the council, with the support of the Department for Infrastructure. The bikes have been highly popular, with more than a quarter of a million journeys undertaken around the city.

They cost £20 for an annual subscription, or £5 for three days. They can also be rented for 50p for an hour, £1.50 for two hours, £2.50 for three hours or £4.50 for four hours.

More and more users, however, are taking advantage of a loophole, whereby the first 30 minutes are free, meaning that, with careful planning, cyclists can negotiate their way around the city without paying anything.

But Mr Long and his party objected to the half-hour period of grace being cut down to 15 minutes, arguing that £15,000 is "hardly a large amount in relation to a budget of £150m".

"We believe this will result in reduced usage of the bikes and so jeopardise the success of the scheme," he said.

Mr Long has urged other parties on the council to also oppose the move.

The proposal will be discussed again on Friday but will not be adopted as policy unless it is agreed by the next full meeting of the council, which is due to take place on Wednesday, February 1.

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