Bright-red bikes will be a regular feature of Uxbridge and Hillingdon life after the area launched its first public cycle-hire scheme.
Santander Cycles Brunel – affectionately-dubbed ‘Brunel Bikes’ – will initially connect six docking stations across Uxbridge town centre, Brunel University London and Hillingdon Hospital, with proposals being drawn-up to extend the network to West Drayton in the future.
It’s hoped the scheme – which has been described as a “great thing for Uxbridge” by local MP Boris Johnson – can give people in Hillingdon a convenient new means of getting about town, while encouraging exercise, easing traffic and reducing pollution.
The new bikes come thanks to Brunel’s winning effort in the Santander Cycles University Challenge, a national competition which tasked universities with raising funding for their own local cycle scheme.
Backed by key partners such as Hillingdon Hospital, Brunel had just 33 days to raise operating costs of £48,650 – a target that was eventually smashed by £36,000 thanks to donations from over 400 supporters, including local businesses and a host of current and former students. A further £100,000 of capital investment was awarded to the scheme by Santander.
To hire the bikes, riders can either pay £1 for 30 minutes use, or pay an annual rate of £60 for unlimited one-hour rides. An annual student, alumni and staff membership is also available for the reduced rate of just £30. Access is gained via the Santander Cycles app, online or over the phone, with full details displayed at each docking station.
The bikes will be supplied by leading bike share operator nextbike, which has more than 200 schemes worldwide, including 10 in the UK. Membership to Brunel Bikes gives users access to the complete nextbike UK network, with worldwide access available on a pay-as-you-go basis.
Supporting the scheme is local MP and former Mayor of London, Boris Johnson, who was famously in office when the first public cycle scheme, originally proposed by his predecessor, launched in the capital.
“It’s wonderful, I think Brunel have been pioneering,” said Mr Johnson.“It’s also a great thing for Uxbridge and the local community because what they are creating is not just a cycle scheme for the university but for the whole of the town centre. I’ve no doubt that it’ll expand and this is the start of something really beautiful.”
Four of the docking stations will be installed around Brunel, a single-campus university that’s traditionally been connected to its local tube station by a bus service. The university’s 14,000 students and 2150 staff will now be able to reach the station in under 10 minutes, at a cost lower than the bus fare.
Launching the scheme, Brunel Vice-Chancellor and President, Prof Julia Buckingham CBE, said: “This is a wonderful opportunity for us to all to work together to promote a healthier campus, and indeed, a healthier community – something we’re working very closely on with our NHS partners.“We need to give a huge thank you to our students, our staff, our alumni, local businesses and organisations, and the wider Hillingdon community.”
Jason Seez, Deputy CEO of The Hillingdon Hospitals NHS Foundation Trust, which runs Hillingdon Hospital, said: "The Santander Cycle hire scheme is a great way for people to travel between Uxbridge station, Brunel University London's campus and our hospital in Pield Heath Road.
"It will help lots of people to get some exercise and, as a Trust, helps us deliver our Green Travel commitment by offering patients, visitors and our staff a way to use a combination of public transport and Santander's bicycles to get to the hospital, so removing a number of car journeys. I urge everyone to sign up."
The Santander Cycles University Challenge, launched in November 2017, tested universities’ fund-raising talents by giving the five finalists just one month to raise enough money for a cycle scheme through a crowd funding campaign. Two universities, Brunel and Swansea, won £100,000 to put towards their scheme, after narrowly pipping other universities with a flurry of late pledges.
Matt Hutnell, Director, Santander Universities UK said: “We’re really excited to be bringing Santander Cycles to Uxbridge and Hillingdon after the amazing response we had from the local community to our Santander Cycles University Challenge. Over the past five years we’ve supported Brunel University London in a range of ways, from helping students start their own businesses to connecting students with local SMEs, supporting the local economy. We’re delighted that the Santander Cycles scheme will ensure that both Brunel University London and the local community prosper even further from our partnership.”
Cllr Keith Burrows, Hillingdon Council's Cabinet Member for Planning, Transportation and Recycling, said: "We were delighted to work with Brunel to find a suitable location for the docking station in Uxbridge. We're supportive of any scheme that helps to reduce congestion and pollution and improve the health and wellbeing of residents - and this scheme delivers on all fronts. We wish it every success."
Krysia Solheim, nextbike UK MD, said: “The positive impact bike share can have on reducing congestion and carbon emissions, while improving and public health is well-documented and we’re thrilled to be working with Santander to bring nextbikes to Brunel. We’ve currently got stations and bikes at seven other UK universities, so we know just how popular bike share is amongst the student population – we expect Brunel to be no exception.”
Tim Pilgrim, Media Relations
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