The contract between NSL and the council is for six years with an option to renew for a further 3 years to operate and maintain the scheme.
The scheme in Belfast will be Northern Ireland’s first. The city council said that services company NSL is set to deliver and maintain the scheme with Nextbike providing the bicycle infrastructure and management system.
If all goes well with plans on both sides of the border, it will bring the number cities on the island with public bike share systems to five. DublinBikes in the Republic’s capital is undergoing an expansion, and a now delayed Coke Zero sponsored system is to be in place in Cork, Limerick and Galway by the end of August.
The council said “up to” 30 docking stations will be provided as part of the first phase of the scheme. Detail design will be worked on over the next three months and construction is due to take place from November 2014 to February 2015.
The cost to users has not been finalised, but free use for the first 30 minutes of journeys is promised.
A Belfast bikes scheme sub-section of the city council’s website says: “We haven’t decided on the charges yet but we are committed to making sure that the scheme will be affordable to everyone. Each time that an annual subscriber or casual user uses a public bike they will not be charged for the first 30 minutes of their journey. There with be small, incremental charges after 30 minutes of use.”
The city council will hold a preview of the bikes and docking stations on the grounds of Belfast City Hall from May 8 to 10 between 10am to 5pm.
Transport minister, Danny Kennedy said: “My department is providing over £1 million capital funding for this scheme which is an important element of my goal in achieving a cycling revolution in Northern Ireland, and delivering a flagship Active Travel Demonstration Project for Belfast. Similar schemes in London and Dublin have already proved very successful giving people the option of jumping on a bike for short journeys across the cities at very little cost whether for business or leisure.”
He added “The Belfast bike scheme will put cycling in the heart of city and will provide a sustainable and inexpensive transport system for local people and visitors. It will be a much healthier way to travel for both the public and the environment and will help reduce traffic congestion in the city.”
John McGrillen, Belfast City Council’s director of development said: “As part of our £150 million Investment Programme, we have pledged to explore and invest in projects which develop our infrastructure, but also deliver benefits for neighbourhoods across the city.”
McGrillen said: “The public bike share scheme is a perfect example of this – not only will the scheme enhance connectivity across the city and encourage people to use and enjoy more of our assets, such as the Lagan Towpath and the National Cycle Network, but it also supports tourism and our wider economy, by providing visitors with new ways to explore what Belfast has to offer.”
The city says that it is currently looking for potential sponsors for the scheme — a successful sponsor would get naming rights.