Sunday, 17 December 2017

Electric bike network set to grow despite slow start by hirers

A FOURTH hire point has been added to the Henley area’s electric bicycle network.

A FOURTH hire point has been added to the Henley area’s electric bicycle network.

Cyclists can now rent one of the machines, which cost £25 a day, from Hurley Riverside Park.

The scheme was launched by cycling charity CTC in July to encourage people to explore the Chilterns.

Henley Cycles in Reading Road, Henley, is the main hub and maintains all eight bikes on the network.

It has two for hire while Swiss Farm in Henley and the Chiltern Valley Winery and Brewery in Hambleden also have two each.

The final pair were delivered to Hurley Riverside Park last weekend. They were due to arrive before the bank holiday but delivery was delayed.

CTC has given the campsite a free two-month trial and will collect the bikes at the end of next month. Director Will Burfitt heard about the project when he called the Chilterns Conservation Board to order some maps.

He said that if the bikes proved popular, he would consider paying for them next summer.

Mr Burfitt said: “We are in a difficult place for ordinary bike hire because cycling to Henley is quite hard from here. Customers have asked us about electric bikes in the past but we were reluctant because of the maintenance.

“However, Henley Cycles is taking care of that so we felt we could give it a go. It’s taken away that barrier.

“Even if few people hire them, we’d still think about taking them on next year if there’s enough interest. They’ve quoted us £200 for a year’s lease so if there isn’t much interest it will be difficult to justify.”

The bikes are powered by a rechargeable battery and can travel 40 miles on one charge. They can reach up to 15 miles per hour.

James Miller, who owns Henley Cycles, said: “This year has been a test of the water but we’ve had some interest. One of the bikes was out for a whole week, there has been the odd day trip and we’ve also got bookings for this month.

“From my point of view it has been worth doing. We will be doing it again next year so that we have the bikes for a full season. It kicked off a little bit late this year — hopefully we will get them back around March.”

When the network was launched there was one additional charging point at the Stag and Huntsman pub in Hambleden.

Now there are three more at the Quince Tree in Stonor, the Rainbow Inn in Middle Assendon and the Fox and Hounds in Christmas Common.

Helen Biggerstaff, of CTC, said: “It’s not an easy thing to get off the ground because people have to get used to the concept. It has been a slow burn thing but people are certainly starting to use them to get to tourist attractions instead of taking taxis.

“Henley has been the pilot area in the Chilterns but lots and lots of people are doing it across the country so it has plenty of potential. We are hoping to add more hire and charging points next year.”

For more information, visit www.electricbicyclenetwork.com/hiring/chilterns

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