Friday, 25 October 2013

DurhamGate - bicycle hire in Spennymoor

I work at Tridonic UK Ltd in Spennymoor. Very close to Tridonic, is an area in which several large businesses operated from. A lot of work has been carried out on the area, with old buildings demolished and new housing and businesses being erected in their place.

What is DurhamGate?

From the website:
"DURHAMGATE is the largest mixed-use regeneration scheme in the North East of England, incorporating commercial, living and leisure opportunities. The developer is investing over £100m and the site is recognised as having key, strategic importance for the region."

All of this regeneration is having a big change to the way that current employees in and around the area commute to work. Roads have been re-routed and restrictions put in place. For me, when I commute by bike, I'm not affected. However, when I travel by car, I am affected.

Transport

A large regeneration like this requires a dedicated travel plan. Obviously the major mode of transport through this area is via car and the roads have already been taken care of. An alternative travel plan has been put into place for the site, with the aim of encouraging sustainable travel options and making pedestrians and cyclists feel secure. There will be dedicated bus services, plus on the 17th July 2013, DurhamGate announced that there would be an opportunity for cycle hire.

DurhamGate cycle hire

To understand what exactly what the hire scheme offers, I spoke to Helen Attley, DurhamGate Concierge Manager.

The bicycles are available to all residents of DurhamGate. Residents include people living in the new housing estates and also the employees of the businesses in DurhamGate. The cycle hire runs in a one day period, from 9am - 4:30pm, Monday to Friday and is free of charge.

I was expecting that the bikes could be hired for longer periods.
For example: the weather forecast for the forthcoming week was looking like glorious sunshine, so instead of driving the 3 miles from Middlestone Moor to DurhamGate, you would be able to hire a bike and commute for the week. This isn't the case and Helen gave some examples of why a resident might consider hiring a bike:
  • Getting from one part of the site to another a few times a day, quickly and easily
  • Car sharing/buddy systems: share a lift to DurhamGate and then cycle to workplace
  • Fresh air and exercise on your lunch hour - take lunch outside and have a picnic
  • Visiting friends for a coffee
Helen expanded a bit more on the bikes themselves. There are currently four available to hire, with a view to more being available in spring next year. Although I didn't see them, the picture below (taken from the Life@DurhamGate website) should give you an idea. Mudguards will keep your clothes clean, panniers on the rear can keep your lunch and other items safe and easily transported and a front light will enhance your safety by making the bicycle more visible. They are single speed, so will make cruising around the flat site a breeze. Helmets are also provided.

DurhamGate bicycle (image taken from life@durhamgate website)

Since the bikes were bought in August 2013, they have been used a few times by DurhamGate, Carillion and livin staff members and also used to promote the green transport message. Helen told me more about the green aspects of the site, including the "green spine", which will run between two housing estates and will be grassed areas, with trees and shrubs. Hiding amongst all of this greenery will be exercise equipment, such as step machines, rowing machines and other equipment you'd normally see in the gym, except this will be free to use and maintained by DurhamGate. There is such equipment in Hackworth Park, Shildon - and I've seen that being used. I think that this is a great idea to make exercise appealing and affordable to more people.

Helen told me that as more businesses open on the site, secure bike parking would be available outside the premises. For our meeting, I parked my bike up at the Fox Cub pub, pictured below.
Secure bike parking at the Fox Cub pub, DurhamGate, Spennymoor

Summary

I think that in time, DurhamGate will become an extremely busy area and travelling around the site by car could become a chore. By offering the bikes to all, for free, DurhamGate have the right balance between promoting sustainable transport and offering people an opportunity to revitalise their work day. I love arriving at work by bike; I'm awake and energised, ready for the day. A quick spin at lunch time to clear the mind, get some endorphins circulating could eradicate the mid-afternoon slump in productivity!

If you are interested in the cycle hire scheme, you can "get on your bike by booking your slot today by e-mailing helen@durhamgate.com or telephone 01388 424103."

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