Bicycles will be allowed on Edinburgh’s trams in a British first – but not during rush hour, the Evening News can reveal.
Passengers will be able to travel with their bikes along the £776 million eight-mile line extending from Edinburgh Airport to York Place from next year – but only out of peak hours, according to council chiefs.
The step – designed to encourage more people to cycle around the city – will be trialled after an initial start-up phase of the trams project.
But it’s already raised disappointed eyebrows from some would-be commuters who think it’s a shame they won’t be able to pedal and tram their way in and out of the city.
Bicycles, other than fold-up models, are currently banned on tram networks in other UK cities, including Manchester, Birmingham and Nottingham.
Passengers are also not allowed to take ordinary bikes on to buses in Edinburgh.
Travelling with bikes on trams is expected to still be banned from 7.30am-9.30am and 4.30pm-6.30pm on weekdays. The decision on when to start the trial will lie with trams operator Lothian Buses.
City transport convener Councillor Lesley Hinds said: “We’d be the only city in Great Britain to do it. Even the cyclist organisations recognise that it would have to be off-peak to work.”
Ian Maxwell, board member with cycling campaign group Spokes, said: “We know that loads of European tram systems have no problems with allowing bikes off-peak and yet in Britain it’s always been taboo. We’ve been saying for a long time that Edinburgh should just sweep away that concern and go ahead with allowing bikes. It doesn’t cost anything more, it would be at the discretion of conductors. It would just be an extra feature of the trams system.
“Edinburgh’s going to have some of the biggest trams around, so there’s going to be plenty of space.”
Mr Maxwell said they were prepared for bikes to still be banned during peak commuter hours, adding: “If the trams are going to be absolutely jam packed then I think a carriage of cyclists has got to be less crucial.”
The council also wants to install parking for bicycles around city centre tram stops.
Transport vice-convener Councillor Jim Orr said: “Away from the city centre, there are some facilities being installed on most of the stops on the western part of the line and, as the trams are introduced, we’ll continue to look at these.”
The move to trial bicycles on trams was discussed at an annual two-day light rail conference in Manchester attended by Cllr Hinds, council chief executive Sue Bruce and three other elected members last month.
A workplace parking levy introduced in Nottingham where city centre businesses pay a tax on their allocated bays to help fund new tram lines and other public transport improvements were among other raised topics. The English city collected £8m in the first financial year after introducing the charge in April 2012.
Cllr Hinds said councillors had noted the levy’s initial success but stressed: “At the moment, there is no proposal for a business parking levy.”