London has Boris Bikes; Paris has Velib; Newcastle now has ScratchBikes

Scratch Bikes Jesmond

Previously for students only, short-term city bicycle hire is now available for all in Newcastle.

ScratchBikes, a cycle hire scheme for students in Newcastle city centre and student-friendly suburbs, has been relaunched and is available for the general public. Unlike in London where bespoke bikes with clever – and expensive – docking stations lock and store bikes, the Newcastle scheme is far simpler and could be rolled out to other cities worldwide. Short term cycle hire is done via a text message, with the hirer receiving an unlock code for a combination lock.

Scratchbikes launch, Newcastle

150 distinctive green Dutch-style bicycles will be available for short hire at 15 racks across the city with a further seven racks planned for suburbs such as Jesmond. The relaunch follows investment from business development group NE1, a business improvement agency for Newcastle city centre. The new investment helped pay for a Scratchbikes iPhone app.

ScratchBikes was founded by graduates Jack Payne and Rob Grisdale last year who created their bike hire scheme for Newcastle University students and lecturers.

Scratchbikes launch, Newcastle

Rack locations in the city centre include Central Station, the city’s main hospital, the main shopping areas, and the more touristy Quayside, which is down a steep hill (a hill that scuppered a previous Newcastle city bike scheme in 2002).

Rental locations for ScratchBikes are marked by Sheffield stands and square signs on poles. An iPhone app is due in iTunes store soon. A launch for the scheme was held today on the NewcastleGateshead Millennium bridge.

Next up for ScratchBikes will be the roll-out of a new bicycle-based locking system which, said Grisdale, could be rapidly and cheaply deployed on city bike schemes elsewhere in the world.

ScratchBikes, Jesmond

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