Northern Ireland

Belfast Bikes fitted with anti-theft tracking devices

Belfast bikes outside the City Hall
Image caption Belfast's bike scheme has proved popular since its introduction in 2015

Tracking devices are being installed on Belfast Bikes to try to stop them being stolen and to improve cycling safety.

Almost 40% of the rental bikes are out of action due to vandalism or for routine maintenance.

Image caption Empty bike docking stations have become a familiar sight in recent months

Tracking technology is being installed on 200 of the 576 bikes during the next year to try to keep more on the road.

The public bicycle hire scheme started two years ago and, in spite of the vandalism, has proved popular - being used by more than 10,000 people.

Image caption Philip McAleese of See.Sense says bike users will not need to fuss with phone apps

The tracking devices, created by County Down-based technology company See.Sense, monitor the whereabouts of the bike and also gather environmental information about the journey.

"Use of sensor technology allows us to collect never-before-seen data from bikes, including road surface and near-miss events," said Philip McAleese, the chief executive of Newtownards firm See.Sense.

Image copyright See.Sense
Image caption Sensor technology collects information about the bike's whereabouts

"Our ability to communicate this data in a very low power way from the bike is also unique, requiring only the power generated from the bike's own dynamo.

"The benefit of the technology from the cyclist viewpoint is that they do not need to fuss with apps or other devices to contribute data to their city, they simply hop on."

Image caption Lord Mayor of Belfast Nuala McAllister says the technology will make cycling safer

Belfast's Lord Mayor Nuala McAllister said: "We are delighted to collaborate on this world-first pilot project.

"It allows us to access innovative technology for the collection and analysis of data, which can be applied to make cycling safer and more enjoyable for everyone in our city."

Some 233 of the total stock of 576 Belfast Bikes are off the road as a result of damage or necessary repair work.

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