Cycle hire scheme relaunched by Jessica Ennis-Hill in Milton Keynes after £200,000 vandalism bill

Milton Keynes residents are set to benefit from more than 40,000 hours of free cycling to celebrate the relaunch of the Santander Cycles MK scheme.

This time the scheme will be operated by leading bike share provider nextbike and a fleet of 500 new bikes will be provided.

Jessica Ennis-Hill takes one of the new bikes for a spin around MK

Jessica Ennis-Hill takes one of the new bikes for a spin around MK

Around 300 of them will be available by the end of this month, with the remaining 200 bikes expected by early next year.

Santander's cycle hire scheme was launched in MK in 2016, but a year later the organisers revealed they were considering scrapping it because of the amount of bikes being vandalised.

Almost two thirds of the hire bikes had ended up damaged or stolen - a sad statistic that equated to three times higher than anywhere else in the country.

By 2017, the cost of the “extensive and deliberate” damage was estimated to be more than £200,000, said Santander.

As part of the relaunch, the new bikes will be upgraded with more gears, QR codes to make renting easier and new rear bike locking systems.

A further six new docking stations will also be added to the 44 already in place across MK.

Jessica Ennis-Hill this week came to MK to mark the launch and test the bikes.

To celebrate, nextbike is offering all registered users a 1.5 hour free ride voucher to use between now and December 31, 2019.

Users just need to enter the voucher code when they log onto the app and they can ride straight away.

The bikes will be one of the cheapest ways to get around Milton Keynes, with the first 30 minutes free for monthly or annual subscribers, and just £1 for 30 minutes for pay as you go users.

Krysia Solheim, nextbike UK MD, said she was delighted to be bringing the new bikes to Milton Keynes.

“The Milton Keynes Santander Cycles scheme has clocked up almost 130,000 rides and an incredible 206,500 kilometres since it launched just over three years ago," she said.

She added: “We can’t wait to bring the scheme back up to full strength over the next few months. The benefits of cycling are huge, from helping to reduce congestion and CO2, to improving health and mobility. We hope customers will notice a huge difference when they start using the new bikes.”

Dan Sherwood, Interim Chief Marketing Officer at Santander UK, said: “As a major local employer, we were really proud to bring the first cycle hire scheme to Milton Keynes in 2016, and it’s been great to see Santander Cycles MK become part of the local community.

"Being able to continue that support with a brand new bike fleet and infrastructure is fantastic, especially as we have used a lot of what we have learnt in Milton Keynes to help design the new bikes.

“Milton Keynes is a great city for cycling and we want the cycle scheme to be used by as many people in the community as possible, so we’re delighted to relaunch the scheme.”