Ground-breaking smart technology at Harpur Square’s new bike shelter

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The UK’s first-ever cycle hub to feature an app-based locking and booking system has been opened in Bedford town centre.

The new bike storage shelter is just off Harpur Square and access is gained via a smartphone app that can be managed from your smartphone or tablet.

The need for secure cycle parking in the town centre was highlighted during the Council’s consultation for the Town Centre Plan and was funded by the Government’s £1m Town Deal Accelerator fund.

It was revealed yesterday that Bedford has been successful in securing an additional £22.6m of Town Deal funding from central Government to enhance the areas around the station, Midland Road and St Paul’s Square.

Read: £22.6 million secured for Bedford Town Centre investment

Cyclists visiting Bedford town centre need to register by email to access the unit. Once they’ve emailed Sustainable.Transport@bedford.gov.uk with their full name, address in Bedford Borough and phone number, they will then receive details on how to access the unit and will need to download the ‘Okey Access’ app on their smartphone.

The bike storage unit uses secure encrypted Bluetooth and ‘Near Field Communications’ to communicate between your phone and the shelter, so once the app is downloaded you do not need internet access.

Councillor Henry Vann, portfolio holder for town centres and planning, said: “Safer cycle parking was something raised during consultations on our Town Centre Plan.

“This will help to encourage more people to cycle into the town centre and visit our beautiful Embankment, amazing independent retailers, and leisure and cultural businesses and activities.

“Cyclists will still need to lock their bikes in the shelter, but this added security will help to keep bikes safely in store and is part of a host of measures to encourage more people to visit the town.

“This shelter is being funded as part of the Government’s £1m Town Deal Accelerator Fund. One of the other projects is cycle signing of 27 routes into the town centre and a circular route around the town to encourage more people to cycle.”

Peter Blakeman from the Cycling Campaign for North Bedfordshire welcomed the news and hoped it would be a catalyst for more people to get on their bikes.

“This new secure cycle shelter in Harpur Square should help encourage more people into town and we hope it is a first step towards tackling bike thefts and encouraging people to use our town centre more,” he said.

“Returning from shopping to find your trusted old or expensive new bicycle missing is not a nice experience.

“For your peace of mind we always recommend when leaving your bicycle – no matter for how short a time – that it is secured to a one of the many ‘Sheffield’ type cycle stands dotted around the town centre using where possible two different locks such as a chain and D lock.”

Bedford’s Green councillors, whose ward covers the town centre also welcomed the installation of the new bike hub.

“This is a good step in the right direction to welcome cyclists, some of whom we know for a fact have been put off coming into town by the very large numbers of bike thefts,” said Cllr Lucy Bywater.

“On top of this, we need to encourage more people to cycle by creating proper safe cycle routes into town, not just painted white lines.”

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