Published: 14:04, 09 June 2021
| Updated: 12:55, 10 June 2021
Several councillors were left unimpressed when presented with plans for a bike hire scheme in Maidstone, arguing for more ambitious proposals.
During a Maidstone Borough Council (MBC) strategic planning and infrastructure committee meeting yesterday evening, members debated options for a micromobility hire scheme.
The use of electric scooters was not ruled out in documents ahead of the meeting, but yesterday evening council officer Alex Wells clarified they wouldn't be part of plans.
He explained that Department for Transport, which is running electronic scooter trials across the country, including in Canterbury, has said it doesn’t have room for any further councils in its current trial.
However, electronically assisted bikes, as well as regular bikes, are still possibilities.
A report said that introducing such a service may service to “revitalise the town centre post-Covid” and that cycling brings health and social benefits, as well as economic benefits to the town.
Members examined three procurement options for bringing a hire scheme to the market, with the aim of appointing a service provider.
The option recommended to councillors catered to leisure and commuter demographics.
Primary pick-up and drop-off sites would be Maidstone East and Maidstone West railway stations, the bus station in the town centre, Willington Street Park and Ride and Mote Park.
MBC-owned alternatives for Maidstone East, Maidstone West and the bus station were given as County Road, Lockmeadow and Medway Street.
Visiting member Cllr Paul Harper said: “I think it would have been good to have a better scheme bought before us,” adding there were no plans to use other park and ride sites and major education sites.
Cllr Val Springett said she feared doing a “half hearted trial,” adding: “I just don’t see how we are giving it a fair chance with only five sites.”
Cllr Patrik Garten said: “I personally can’t even see myself using this scheme just by these five sites.”
He said he wanted to see local shops involved, possibly using them as drop-off or pick-up points.
He added: "We want to branch out further, we want to have people coming from further afield from the rural communities."
Mr Wells said: "There is a huge variety of schemes... we looked at some dock schemes which I think were mentioned.
"In addition there are dockless schemes which are also very viable for Maidstone and could in theory provide better coverage, better affordability and better usability for people, but to encompass all of this within one report really became something of a mess so we instead the decision was made to try and keep it high level and leave the in-depth decision making to the market, which is something we have previously tried with the park and ride with great success."
The service would run as a trial for three years, documents proposed for the preferred option said.
The report added scheme’s cost cannot be known until a procurement process is complete.
It was decided the item would be deferred with a workshop for potential providers planned in August and further ideas for the scheme going to the committee in October.