Just Eat Cycles to close all 31 'virtual stations' in Edinburgh due to thefts and vandalism

Many of the bikes have been damaged.
Many of the bikes have been damaged.
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Just Eat Cycles will close all 31 of its remaining “virtual stations” in Edinburgh, where users do not have to lock bikes to stands, the Evening News can reveal.

It had planned to install around 70 such stations among a network of 100 by next March, where cycles are left freestanding but immobilised using internal locks.

READ MORE: Edinburgh Just Eat Cycles' new electric bikes - first review
The plans have been scrapped following unexpectedly high levels of vandalism.

In addition to 100 of the 500 bikes being damaged, as the Evening News revealed in May, a further 50 have gone missing.

Serco, which runs the scheme for Edinburgh City Council-run Transport for Edinburgh, said it had been forced to increase its mechanics from two to five to cope with the damage.

Just Eat Cycles general manager Charles Graham said: “We have seen a lot of vandalism, which we were surprised by as it was at a higher rate than in London [where Serco runs the main hire scheme].

“The virtual stations were subject to abuse because the bikes were not secured to a physical dock. We do not think they are quite right for the city.

“Initially, people were trying to steal the bikes to use them, but that changed to wanton destruction - they were hit with hammers and cones. It’s quite depressing.

“It used to be localised but is now happening all over, including in the city centre.”

Mr Graham said problems at virtual stations had also been caused by winds blowing bikes over, damaging brake levers.

More stations will be sited in well-lit, busier areas that are covered by CCTV, with a total of 74 in operation so far.

Mr Graham said the damage had cost thousands of pounds, but this was borne by Serco under its contract with TFE.

But he said the rate had fallen significantly since staff had started promptly picking up bikes not left properly secured after being rented.

Mr Graham said he also expected many of the 50 missing bikes to turn up as they were often abandoned after suffering a puncture, with some in London being recovered after three years.

Nextbike, which runs Glasgow’s 650-bike hire scheme, said vandalism had been “very minimal” and only a few bikes had gone missing.

Ian Maxwell, of Spokes, the Lothian Cycle Campaign, said: “It is a great shame Just Eat has to take this move at a time when more and more bikes are being used properly, but using the docking stations should avoid this vandalism.”

On Wednesday, the Evening News revealed that Edinburgh’s electric hire bikes have been delayed till next year.

Serco announced the fleet of 168 bikes will not be available the the public until spring 2020 rather than this autumn.

Officials previously said they would go into service within a year of last September’s launch.