Swipe your card for a spin in the saddle

June 12, 1998

New universities are pioneering the use of environmental policies. Julia Hinde reports

Portsmouth University's pioneering Bikeabout scheme has already encouraged 300 students and staff to abandon their cars and travel between the university's campuses using pedal power.

Now organisers are planning to recruit a further 700 green-minded cyclists over the next year.

Bikeabout was launched two years ago. A hundred bikes, painted in university colours, are kept at three depots - one at each of the university's campuses. Students and staff can borrow a bike when travelling the two miles or so between campuses.

But what makes the scheme unique, says Patrick Finch, Portsmouth's director of physical resources, is the fact it is automated, cutting down on the need for staff and ensuring the safe return of cycles. So far no cycles have gone missing.

Bikes are available only to staff and students who have registered for the scheme. Participants are issued with a swipe card which can be used at a depot to claim a bike. Students key in which of the three sorts of bike they want and the computer registers their details before issuing a cycle. The bike lock will only release once it recognises the swipe card.

Cycles must be returned to a depot and logged in using the card. So, if a bike is not returned, staff can easily discover the last registered borrower.

Mr Finch admits there have been teething problems, particularly with the software, but now the scheme is running smoothly and ready for expansion.

"It's not as well used as we want," admits Mr Finch. "But it is a pilot and we will be launching a promotion this summer."

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