I was flying back to London yesterday and I thought the appropriate movie choice was Robin Hood, the new version, with Russell Crowe. I don’t know whether Robin Hood and Marion ended up in each other’s arms as the landing abruptly ended the movie, but the Robin Hood statue looked definitely familiar this morning, where I was to meet people from Sustrans, Nottingham University and Nottingham Trent University to learn more about the Ucycle project, the bike hire scheme for students, during the launch event, that attracted many journalists and photographers as well.
The whole thing started with a survey that showed that there would be quite a take-up of a bike hire scheme at the Notthingham University and Nottingham Trent University. So they tasked Sustrans to manage the project and figure out the details. So after a couple of months of planning and measuring up the foreseeable demand, they announced a tender for 460 bikes. The contract was won by Evans Cycles and we managed to have the 460 bikes manufactured in just two months.
The academic year is about to start so everything had to be ready on time. The very first batch of bikes, as you can see on the photos, have already been assembled, but the majority of the work is still to be done. As soon as all the bike arrives, 10 Evans mechanics will gather to assemble the remaining 400-ish bikes in just four days.
After all these preparations, how will the scheme work? University students can apply and it will cost £30 per year, plus there’s a £100 deposit, if the bike gets stolen or wasn’t looked after properly. Of course, Evans Cycles will provide the Stage 1 and Stage 2 services for free, but it’s the student’s responsibility to drop the bikes off for servicing – which itself will be a hefty task: two mechanics will solely perform Stage 2 servicing for two months.
So what are the bikes like? Basically, they are standard Pinnacle Stratus 1.0 E-s, but painted in the project’s white colourway. They are pretty reliable and sturdy bikes, so there should be no serious issues with the bikes. They are also equipped with all necessary accessories, like mudguards, lights, pannier racks and locks. Students present quite liked the idea and the way the bikes rode. When I asked Joanna Ward of Sustrans, what their expectations are, she said that they already have had 40 preorders and she was confident that they would be able to rent out all the bikes soon.
Given the growing popularity of cycling, it is easily possible that more universities would follow suit and Sustrans will have a lot of experience of running a scheme like this under their belt.
I’m on the train back to London now and I’m about to finish the Robin Hood film I downloaded last night via iTunes, so I’m about to find out whether Robin Hood and Marion got together eventually.