OXFORD’S own ‘Boris Bike’ scheme was unveiled yesterday.

The project aims to encourage commuters to ditch their cars for short journeys.

Users of the so-called Oxonbike will be able to rent cycles for free for up to 30 minutes to travel between seven cycle hire racks in Headington from tomorrow.

The £150,000 scheme, which has a total of 30 bikes, is being piloted by Oxfordshire County Council for two years and will enable commuters to travel between Thornhill Park and Ride, Headington’s hospitals and the university campuses.

It was suggested following concerns from residents and employers about increased traffic congestion in Headington.

Summertown information analyst Michael Fariaz, 45, who works at the Nuffield Orthopaedic Centre in Windmill Road, said: “It is fantastic, especially to travel to other hospitals and from the park and ride.”

Witney physiotherapist Jon Room, 32, who also works at the Nuffield Orthopaedic Centre, said: “There is a good chance I will use the scheme. I work between sites – anything that gets you from one place to the other, with exercise too.”

Honour Tomkinson, co-owner of Walton Street Cycles in Jericho, which will manage the day to day running including redistribution and maintenance of the bikes, said: “They are Boris Bikes for Oxford.

“I think it is inevitable the scheme will be popular.”

Users can log into their account to see the availability of bikes in any particular location thanks to GPS built into the machines. The system is powered by solar batteries fitted to the bike.

County council cabinet member for transport David Nimmo-Smith, said: “We are trying to get people out of their cars, off buses and make them healthy.

“It is a follow-on from the London idea to get people off the road and we are trialing this here for the city because there are a number of businesses around here.”

He added: “If it works out we should be able to roll out to the city and to start off with more urban areas such as Bicester, Abingdon, Banbury.

“In London it was a relatively modest scheme then they had to extend it because of the huge demand.

“That is what we are hoping to replicate here.”

David Early, the county council’s travel planner, added: “Hire cyclists tend to be popular even when people have got cycles. Oxford is the ideal place for it really.”

The bikes can be locked anywhere but must be returned to one of the cycle hire racks, otherwise the user will continue to be charged.

Users will be billed monthly for any hire charges incurred above the free half-hour.

  • TO use the new bike scheme, cyclists need to register online for a code and pay a one-off fee of £1.
  • Cyclists can then use their code to release a key from the handle bar and this will unlock the bike.
  • The first 30 minutes are free to use, but the scheme starts charging after this.
  • Lock the bike at one of the seven racks when finished.
  • Charges for using the machines increase on a sliding scale to discourage long term use:
  • Up to 30 mins – free
  • 0.5 to 1 hour – £1
  • 1 to 2 hours – £2.50
  • 2 to 3 hours – £7.50
  • 3 to 6 hours –  £15.00
  • 6 to 24 hours – £30.00

The council is also upgrading the footpath between the park and ride site and the Headington roundabout on the south side of the A40.

There will be a new entrance and exit for cyclists at Thornhill and a new location for hire and privately-owned cycles.

An extra 500 spaces at the park and ride site are expected to open fully by the end of this month.

  • To register to use the bikes visit oxfordshire.gov.uk/oxonbike
  • What do you think? Email letters@oxfordmail.co.uk or write to Viewpoints, Oxford Mail, Osney Mead, Oxford OX2 0EJ