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A bike-sharing hire scheme is to be launched across the West Midlands.

West Midlands bikeshare could be up and running as early as next year, with between 3,000 and 5,000 bikes available for hire in cities and towns across the region.

The scheme, similar to that operating in London and other cities across Europe, was approved by members of the West Midlands Combined Authority (WMCA) at its meeting in Birmingham today (Friday Oct 13).The WMCA is now looking for suppliers to bid for a five year contract to provide the bikes and run the scheme, with commercial sponsors being sought to contribute to the running costs.

The sponsorship deal could be worth between £1m-£3m a year depending on the size of the scheme.

Cllr Roger Lawrence, the WMCA’s lead member for transport, said:

“Cycling has a hugely important role to play in tackling issues such as congestion and pollution. If you look across Europe you’ll find these schemes are in place in the vast majority of urban centres there, and it is high time that the town and cities of the West Midlands were doing something similar.”

Cllr Lawrence said no formal date was in place for the scheme to start but he hoped that it could begin to be rolled out as early as summer next year.

A feasibility study commissioned by the WMCA earlier this year concluded areas where the scheme would be most successful included Birmingham, Coventry and Wolverhampton city centres, the town centres of the Black Country and Solihull, and the National Exhibition Centre.

It is proposed that between 3000-5000 bikes based on the study and potential for the region be initially purchased.

The bikes, some of them battery-powered, would be stored in docking stations and the public would pay a fee to use them.

The cost of hire has yet to be decided but the Santander bike scheme in London costs from £2 to access a bike then the first half hour is free. Longer journeys cost £2 for each extra 30 minutes.Whoever wins will be expected to cover the initial capital outlay, around £1,250 and £2,000 per bike, and recover that through the charges and sponsorship.

The bikes will contain smart technology for tracking purposes, a built-in coded locking system, and bespoke parts to deter efforts to sell them by thieves.Mayor of the West Midlands Andy Street has pledged to massively increase investment in cycling in the West Midlands from 25p per head to £10 per head to boost health and tackle congestion.

He wants to see upgrades to cycle routes, particularly the surfaces, lighting, signage and access ramps, more use of the canal network towpaths and off-road routes, and accelerate existing plans for cycle superhighways and increase cycle parking provision at railway stations.

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