ELECTRIC bikes are being offered for hire in the Cairngorms National Park – allowing visitors to explore the area in an environmentally-friendly way.
A network of free charge points has been put in place and the electric bikes are available to hire from a number of sites.
The initiative was launched with the assistance of intrepid cycling pensioner Penny Weir, from Aviemore, who has completed a number of long distance rides.
Aged 70, she cycled coast to coast across Canada, some 4,000 miles, for charity.
The Cairngorms E-Bike Project is set to bring many benefits to the National Park from offering more sustainable travel options for visitors to providing a new tourism opportunity for local businesses.
It will also enable those who thought that cycling was perhaps beyond them – due to ability, fitness or age – to enjoy a good day’s cycling with friends and family again.
Penny Weir said: “I must admit, I had reservations about e-bikes because I considered them for much older people, then I realised – that was me.
“But after trying the e-bikes, I am pleased to say that I think they are fabulous. I was thrilled with the sensation of the first push down on the peddle and the boost of power that it gives you.
“I am sure these bikes will make cycling accessible to more people and I can highly recommend them to visitors to the Cairngorms National Park because enjoying the area by bike gives people a whole new and different perspective.”
Specially designed route maps have been published promoting various scenic bike rides with information on where to go and what to see – as well as where hire and charge points can be found.
There are more than 25 electric bikes available for hire at various locations across the UK’s largest National Park at a cost of around £25 per day.
Bikes are equipped with a battery that provides up to 30-40 miles of assisted cycling and charging the bike up is completely free of charge at designated points, ranging from visitor attractions to coffee shops.
Like normal bikes, electric bikes are powered by human effort but can provide a boost on request, which is probably very welcome in a location like the Cairngorms National Park where the topography and sometimes windy weather can challenge even the fittest of cyclists.
The bikes themselves look no different to regular bikes and have a range of gears. However at any point the rider can choose to switch on the electric power to help ride up hills with relative ease and no sweat.
Mike Dennison, the Cairngorms E-Bike project officer, said: “Over 30 local businesses have come together to form a network of E-Bike rental and battery charging points so visitors can hire an E-Bike from any number of locations around the Park.
“Using our specially designed maps, they can follow scenic routes linking visitor attractions, viewpoints and places of interest, stopping off en route at a designated cafe or local business to recharge their batteries both literally and metaphorically.”
He added: “E-Bikes offer a healthy and environmentally friendly means of travelling, are good fun and are really easy to ride.
“They make cycling accessible to everyone, irrespective of their age and ability and everyone who has ridden one has climbed off with a smile on their face.
“It’s amazing how much more you see from the seat of a bike and I personally think it’s a much better day out in the Park than in a car.”
The first of its kind in Scotland, it is being funded by the Scottish Government Energy and Climate Change Directorate and is being delivered by Sustrans in partnership with the CNPA and Electric Travel CIC.
A number of successful networks are already operational in National Parks in England and Wales.
The park authority convener Duncan Bryden said: “The E-Bike Project is definitely a flagship one for the Park Authority because it is set to deliver a wide’ range of benefits to the Park and for Scotland.
“From helping to grow the economy by providing new business opportunities, to helping to tackle climate change with greener transport options available to people and then there is the benefit to peoples’ health by encouraging more active lifestyles. I have thoroughly enjoyed my e-bike experience today.”