Cycling scheme to boost tourism

Cycling scheme to boost tourism

Cyclist next to Blackpool tram
Tourism bosses hope the scheme will prove to be another attraction

A mass bicycle hire scheme, said to be the largest of its kind in the UK, has been officially launched in Blackpool.

The £1m initiative, funded by Cycling England, Blackpool NHS and the council, is aimed at boosting tourism and its profile as a cycling destination.

Modelled on the popular Paris scheme, it involves a number of stands located around the resort's promenade, pleasure beach, and in local parks.

The number of available bicycles will gradually increase to 500 by May 2010.

They will be located at 100 bike hubs across the resort, making it the largest scheme in the country.

Similar, but smaller-scale, schemes currently operate in areas including Reading and Bristol.

According to tourism body Visit England, the number of UK holidaymakers visiting the resort in 2008 was down 26% on the previous year.

It's going to be an enormous scheme
Phillip Darnton, Cycling England

Tourism bosses hope the scheme will be another attraction for people visiting the resort.

Councillor Maxine Callow, Blackpool's cabinet member for tourism and regeneration, said: "Our dedication to cycling initiatives is a massive step forward in Blackpool's efforts to boost tourism in the town and enhance our reputation as a family friendly holiday destination.

"I hope people will take the opportunity to make use of this clean, easy and affordable method of transport.

"They will be able to jump on a bike wherever they are and use it to get all over the town."

Last year, Blackpool was named as one of 11 cycling towns and cities across England, opening up funding of £6m.

About 500 bicycles will eventually be available in the resort

Cycling England, a government-backed agency, said the investment was intended to pioneer cycling initiatives to get more people cycling more often.

Chairman Phillip Darnton said the Blackpool scheme demonstrated the town's commitment to increase cycling levels for residents and visitors.

"It's going to be an enormous scheme," he told the BBC.

"We've got this amazing promenade, all the attractions, all the excitement of it and then backing it you've got 150,000 people who are definitely going to use these bikes, day by day."

Cyclists can access the bikes by buying a day ticket for £8, which gives riders unlimited access to bikes at any location.

Alternatively, they can use a top-up card which allows users to hire a bike for £1 per hour with the first 30 minutes free.