THE free Beryl Bikes scheme for key workers has been extended until the summer.

BCP Council and Beryl Bikes, who launched the partnership after the lockdown was implemented, say 'significant demand' led to the decision to keep the initiative going until the end of June.

So far 173,200 minutes, equating to almost 1,000 free journeys, have been claimed by key workers as a result of the BCP Council-funded transport scheme.

Beryl Bikes and the council say users have included paramedics, hospital porters, supermarket workers, homeless outreach workers, police officers, teachers, social care workers, refuse operatives, train guards, nurses and other NHS workers.

BCP Council transport member Cllr Andy Hadley said: “I am delighted we have been able to continue to support key workers with extending the free use of Beryl Bikes.

"The take-up of this offer has been extraordinary and goes to prove how welcome the scheme is to those on the frontline of the Covid-19 crisis. It is hugely rewarding to be able to help them fulfil their essential roles in these challenging times, and great to see so many other people using bikes for sensible exercise whilst the roads are quiet.

"I would ask those who are driving vehicles for essential reasons to remember to give people on bikes enough space, especially as they pass pedestrians, cyclists may move out to try to give them more room.”

Beryl Bikes co-founder Philip Ellis said “This initiative has been rolled out across all of our schemes in the UK, and the BCP area has enjoyed an exceptional uptake.

"The support we have received from BCP Council has enabled us to make this free access so widely available to all key workers across Bournemouth and Poole."

"As we get used to this new way of life we are afforded the opportunity to see how we can do things differently.

"This initiative reminds us that there are greener, cleaner and healthier ways to travel. As we slowly go back to our daily commutes and non-essential activities, we hope even more of Bournemouth and Poole will choose active and sustainable transport."

Beryl Bikes users are encouraged to wash their hands before and after use, to stay two metres away from others whilst cycling and not to ride in groups.

In addition, thanks to Poole-based company Muc-Off, Beryl teams are equipped with antibacterial spray to disinfect the bikes wherever possible.

Key workers wanting to use one of the Beryl Bikes available across 219 bays in the local area simply need to download the free Beryl Bikes app and share details of their key worker status with the Beryl team. NHS workers with access to an NHS email can use this to sign up and gain automatic access to free rides.