Sunday, 14 August 2022

Bicycle hire scheme revived to encourage shoppers and tourism

HENLEY could have its own “Boris Bikes” this summer.

Bainton Bikes wants to offer bicycle hire to residents and visitors so they can explore the town and surrounding countryside without using a car.

Up to six bikes would be based at the station with two or three at other locations in the town, possibly hotels or car parks.

The company, which is based in Oxford, could offer Brompton foldaway bikes, Pashley traditional bikes, road machines, tandems and even electric bikes.

The machines would be fitted with lights, a bell and puncture-resistant tyres. A smartphone app would be needed to access them.

The bikes would not require docking stations as the app would provide a map of their location and a “key” to unlock one.

A report to Henley Town Council’s recreation and amenities committee said: “This initiative will dovetail with the council’s aim to encourage more people to cycle as a healthy activity, to leave the car behind at home or at their hotel, helping to reduce pollution, and to spend time at the pubs, cafés and the many other attractions that Henley has to offer.

“As a second phase, the council would want to make available maps with suggested routes and places visitors could explore, such as Stonor Park, Greys Court and others, with a safer, quieter route.

“Another idea discussed was that of Midsomer Murders cycle tours for those locations that are beyond easy walking distance but maybe do not justify a car journey.”

Mayor Kellie Hinton suggested other possible locations for the bikes, including Gillotts School, Tesco, Fair Mile, the Greencroft allotments, off Matson Drive, and Swiss Farm, off Marlow Road.

But she added: “I wouldn’t want to see psychedelic advertising bikes everywhere.”

Councillor Ian Reissmann said: “The branding and the appearance of the bikes should be consistent with Henley.”

Committee chairwoman Sarah Miller suggested having baskets on the bikes so that people could do their shopping with them.

Town clerk Janet Wheeler said the scheme would come at no cost to the council, adding: “It does tick all our transport strategy boxes.”

But Councillor David Eggleton said a similar initiative had been tried twice before and failed.

In 2011, the idea of a “Boris Bike” scheme to reduce congestion and emissions in Henley was first put forward and was to include a bike trail connecting the town with Shiplake. The idea was put forward by Pete Smith, then chairman of the former Henley Partnership, who said it would benefit businesses and help persuade commuters not to use Shiplake as a free car park when they caught the train.

Howard Papworth, marketing manager at Bainton Bikes, said the company had an agreement with GWR to place the bikes at Henley station. The cost of hire would be £15 a day.

He said: “We’d probably put in half a dozen and see what the demand was.

“The purpose is to attract people to the area without necessarily having lots of cars around. We want to give people the chance to get some good exercise and appreciate their surroundings.”

“Boris Bikes” were launched in London in 2010 when former Henley MP Boris Johnson was the city’s Mayor. There are now more than 10,000 bikes available for hire at more than 700 docking stations across the capital.

Bikes have been available for hire at Henley Cycles in Reading Road for the past eight years.

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