A collaborative approach reaps rewards

By Robin Heap | 04 December 2023

The formation of the new unitary Bournemouth, Christchurch, and Poole (BCP) Council in April 2019 created an urban population of 400,000, the 12th largest in the country.

BCP is the economic hub of Dorset and the third fastest growing large city region – but it’s also the sixth most congested.

To reduce congestion and encourage a cheap, healthy, and environmentally friendly form of transport, the council tendered for a dockless Bike Share partner over five years. This was eventually awarded to Beryl, a London based operator of bike, e-bike, e-scooter and cargo bike shared services.

Congestion in BCP costs an estimated £300m per year. Securing modal shift by bike, bus, train and on foot became a priority and follows the declaration of a climate emergency by the council. Bike Share was identified as a key deliverable within this plan.

For BCP, Bike Share needed to deliver the following objectives:

• Secure modal shift to bike, including new cyclists and encouraging others ‘back in the saddle’

• Improve air quality

• Reduce congestion by targeting the 7,000 commuters that drive on their own less than 2km daily into Bournemouth

• Improve the health and wellbeing of residents

• Improve connectivity to key public transport interchanges, health care and employment sites

• Create local jobs in manufacturing, maintenance and technology

Enter Beryl Bike Share

Following the tender process, BCP awarded the contract to Beryl – the only micro-mobility operator that is a certified B Corporation – in March 2019.

The scheme was Beryl’s first large scale Bike Share deployment and they have provided purpose-built bikes of real quality. The distinctive green bikes are of step-through design meaning they are fully accessible for all users from 4ft 11in to 6ft 5in.

Access is through the Beryl App, which clearly shows the location of all available bikes for instant hire. Crucially the bikes are fitted with in-built GPS so are continuously tracked by the operator in real time, whereas some other bike share schemes have been dependent on users’ mobile data for this.

Its joint partnership approach is strongly illustrated by BCP housing Beryl’s maintenance team within its premises, close to Bournemouth train station. Historically, this was once the municipal transport depot, so where lines of trams once stood there are now Beryl bikes.

A locally based manager leads a team that maintains and redistributes the bikes as required, which has guaranteed a hassle-free operation and also gives BCP a single point of contact.

Usage of the scheme

The resultant demand for Bike Share has far exceeded expectations. Launched in June 2019, in the first 12 months the BCP scheme saw more than 120,000 journeys made, with 27,000 unique users and riders cycling more than 570,000 km. Its continued growth in use makes it the largest scheme in the UK outside of London.

To date, the bike and e-scooter share scheme has been used by 188,224 different riders, undertaking 1.36 million journeys, and covering 5 million km. This subsequent 33% modal shift has replaced car, van, taxi, and motorbike travel, taking more than 1.65 million vehicle kms off the road network so far.

Making a difference for residents and visitors

Surveys revealed interesting impacts from the Bike Share scheme. It grew in popularity during the challenges of the Covid pandemic. And BCP’s partnership with Beryl provided match funding, giving free rides to more than 500 NHS staff and 1,000 key workers (including social care workers, NHS volunteers, shop assistants, bus, train, and delivery drivers and also teachers, police, support workers for the homeless and refuse operatives).

This illustrated how the scheme is directly saving carbon and reducing congestion, while also increasing the health of its residents and visitors.

Such close partnership working has delivered a measurable modal shift and carbon savings, as you can see below.

Year / Vehicle trips removed / CO2 Saved per year (tonnes)

2019 / 16,170 / 4.1

2020 / 68,640 / 17.5

2021 / 163,201 / 42

2022 / 197,818 / 51

Crucially, annual surveys of users have shown that long term behavioural change is being achieved. An impressive 34% of Beryl users have returned to cycling after a break, while 7% have gone on to buy their own bikes to use.

BCP has shared this example of best practice with other local authorities, giving them the option to confidently implement dockless bike sharing in their areas. The scheme has demonstrated, through such clear and measurable outcomes, that a combined dockless bike and e-scooter sharing solution can secure a significant modal shift and cut down carbon.

This successful scheme was chosen by a panel of judges made up of senior local authority executives with deep expertise in sustainable infrastructure as the winner of Best Transport Decarbonisation Project at this year’s The MJ Achievement Awards.

Zest, a certified B Corp and one of the UK’s fastest growing EV infrastructure providers, is proud to have sponsored the award.

Robin Heap is chief executive officer of Zest

X – @ZestCharging


Best Transport Decarbonisation Project

Winner: Bournemouth, Christchurch and Poole Council

Highly Commended: Islington LBC

Sponsored by Zest

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