NewcastleGateshead - home of the Baltic art venue, the 'eyelid' Millennium cycle/pedestrian bridge, and the 52m high Angel of the North sculpture - is bidding to become the European Capital of Culture in 2008. A world class line-up of events, venues and initiatives makes up the bid, and the latest addition to the equation is a fleet of hire bikes to operate along a network of green corridors, boosting the presence of bicycles in the region.

NewcastleGateshead to get shaft-drive hire bike fleet

Mick Henry, leader of Gateshead Council and Tony Flynn, leader of Newcastle Council will try out a demo version of the Tyne Bike next Thursday at a photoshoot on the extremely photogenic Millennium Bridge.

However, has seen computer-generated mock-ups of the bike, and they are arresting, splashed as they are with the NewcastleGateshead culture bid logos.

The demo bike is fitted with the Sussex shaft drive unit from Taiwan (as also specced on the Zerobike chainless bike, currently available in the UK) and is shod with solid tyres from the Green Tyre company of Middlesbrough.

The Tyne Bike concept is the idea of Nick Devitt, a Newcastle-based entrepreneur, director of a multimedia development company. He’s also a leisure cyclist and wanted to produce a city-specific bike that would act as a catalyst for making Newcastle and Gateshead more cycle friendly, and which would encourage visitors to get around by bike rather than car.

A good choice of route for the Tyne Bike would be from the Quayside, through to the Roman fort of Segedunum, at the beginning of Hadrian’s Wall, a world heritage site. This Sustrans route – part of the C2C – is flat, 95 percent traffic-free and runs by the river for most of its length.

The Tyne Bike project is not making the mistake of other ‘city bike’ schemes: the bikes will not be free to use. There will be a hire charge, with credit card details having to be logged. This will help prevent theft of the bikes.

"We didn’t even consider a free bike scheme, they’d all end up in the Tyne," said Devitt.

Devitt’s idea is being supported by Newcastle Gateshead Initiative, the destination marketing agency for Newcastle Gateshead, developing tourism and conference business (note to cycle show organisers: NewcastleGateshead is going to be one of the top five expo cities in Europe by 2008)!

The design and development of the bike has been supported by enterprise agency ONE North East, through the New Product Programme – Pioneer. The bike has been designed by The Product Group of Cramlington, which has worked on sexy products for the likes of Black and Decker, and other leading brand names.

Devitt would form a limited company to operate the Tyne Bike hire fleet and would seek seed funding from a variety of sources, including any future Department of Transport cycle scheme funding initiatives. He believes a fleet of 200 bikes could be in operation by Spring 2004. A trial of 20 Tyne Bikes would take place next year, from a hire hub, probably on Newcastle Quayside.

"I wanted to have an engaging product, something people are going to want to ride," said Devitt.

Neil Rami, CEO of Newcastle Gateshead Initiative, said: "Clean and sustainable transport is a key part of the bid for European Capital of Culture 2008. Having an innovative, healthy and enjoyable way of getting around NewcastleGateshead would be a valuable resource for local people as well as enabling visitors to cycle around the cities."

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