Northern Ireland

Belfast bike-share scheme suffers 'day one problems'

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Media captionThe bike share scheme includes 300 public bikes, and up to 30 bike docking stations in the city centre, but some had technical difficulties

Belfast's new public bike-share scheme has been hit by problems on its first day, including technical difficulties and helpline issues.

Almost 1,500 people have signed up for the scheme that was launched on Monday.

One customer reported problems at Cromac Street docking station, and told the BBC that even the boss of Belfast City Council was unable to help him.

The council and the firm that runs the scheme said teething problems had been resolved and it was now working well.

Customer Bernard McClure told BBC Radio Ulster he had paid to use the scheme to cycle to work on Monday morning, but he could not release a bike from the docking station.

"I had the [bike-share scheme] application on my phone and whenever I went to the station it sends a code to your phone, but there's no instructions as to actually where you enter the code and the bike just remained locked."

'Fantastic start'

Mr McClure said he spent 15 to 20 minutes trying to get the system to work but was unsuccessful.

He added that during his struggle, he was approached by a woman who asked him how he was getting on.

"Then she introduced herself as the chief executive of Belfast City Council and she suggested that I ring the helpline. While she was standing there I tried it four or five times and it [the helpline] was unobtainable.

"She mentioned that apparently there should have been assistance at each station but there wasn't any at that station at the bottom of Cromac Street," Mr McClure added.

He said he then gave up and walked to work.

In a statement, Belfast City Council said: "We are aware of a few teething problems at a small number of stations, but these have been resolved and overall the scheme is working well and being well used."

NSL, the company that operates the Belfast bike-share scheme said it "has got off to a fantastic start but we have identified a few day one technical issues, which our technicians are now working on".

'Vandalism'

"A cyclist reported that a bike wouldn't release from the Cromac Street docking station - we are looking into this," the firm said.

The NSL statement added that a bike terminal at Central Station/Stewart Street "is currently out of order due to vandalism".

"We estimate it will be operational within three weeks."

They also said that their customer helpline "is fully manned to ensure no-one is waiting too long to have their calls answered".

The firm said it had several representatives "at various stations this morning to offer any assistance to cyclists".

"We shall have more representatives at key stations tomorrow morning, who will be happy to assist with any bike-related issues."

Three hundred bicycles are based at 30 docking stations around the city centre.

It will cost members £20 a year, while visitors and casual users can pay £5 to use them for three days.

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