By Annette Chrysostomou
Nearly four years after it was launched at a cost of at least €800,000, the Nicosia bicycle rental scheme has been scrapped.
As from Monday, those Nicosia municipalities which took part in the scheme have started to dismantle the 27 bike rental pick up/drop off points or ‘stations’ and to remove the bicycles.
A new service is planned.
“Negotiations for a maintenance contract with Nextbike, the international company which successfully runs a similar scheme in Limassol, are under way,” said Michael Anastasiades, head of the financial department of the Strovolos municipality and president of the intermunicipal company in charge of the project.
However, once the new company takes over, it will take at least six months to get a new updated service running.
Some €800,000 was invested in the original scheme, of which around 50 per cent was contributed by the communications ministry. According to Michalis Lambrinos, senior executive engineer at the ministry, the rest of the cost was divided between the seven municipalities that took part in the scheme when it was launched in 2011.
“The municipalities initially hoped that they would find sponsors for advertising and to adopt stations, but due to the financial crisis this never happened,” he said on Monday.
Now additional money will have to be invested, as the process of installing new stations will take time and will involve a very different technology. The municipalities will still own the equipment as before, but it has not been finalised who will cover the cost of the new equipment.
The scheme to rent bikes from 27 different points around the capital was initially successful when it was first launched, but issues other than those related to the financial crisis soon emerged.
To start with, users were asked for a whopping credit card deposit payment of €150 and though this was later dropped, the change was not publicised.
In addition, instructions were difficult to read and follow and in many cases, the pick up locations were not practical.
Anastasiades said that the municipalities had major difficulties with the Greek-based company which didn’t comply with the agreement and last week terminated its contract.
The problems were obvious to users, as the stations have lately been “temporarily unavailable”. When trying to contact the company via the phone number listed at the station, the number was not connected. In fact, the company has not had a representative in Cyprus for some months.
Other problems have varied according to the area, with one of the worst being Eleftheria Square in Nicosia’s old town, where the baskets on the bikes were used as garbage cans.
The new contractor will use the money collected from the cyclists to cover the cost of the day-to-day operations. They are expected to charge similar rates to those in Limassol, €2 for the first hour and €1 for each hour afterwards.
Instructions will undergo a big change. A long list of complicated rules and instructions is going to be reduced to three simple steps.
When the municipalities hand over the running to the private company, cyclists will be able to pay by credit card and via mobile phones. Up to now, users had to visit the municipalities in order to top up the money on their membership cards.