The £350,000 Forth Environment Link e-bike scheme is powering ahead and its first phase will see 100 fully electric bikes made available across Falkirk, Clackmannanshire and Stirling by May of next year.
Canadian firm Bewegen, which has implemented similar projects across the US and Europe, has been drafted in to help with the delivery of the project, supported by the three area’s local authorities, Transport Scotland and NHS Forth Valley.
Transport Minister Humza Yousaf said: “Electric bicycles have a central role to play in encouraging active travel as they are great for all types of people making everyday journeys and are cheap to run and fantastic for the environment, particularly when compared with petrol and diesel cars.
“Having these e-bikes on hire at a range of locations can not only generate active travel journeys in the short-term but convince people of the long-term benefits of travelling by bike on a regular basis.
“This is the latest in a series of announcements connected with the Active Travel budget being doubled to £80 million by the Scottish Government.”
The first e-bike stations are expected to be ready by Autumn 2018, with a number of mobile stations as well as a route connecting Larbert Train station and Forth Valley Royal Hospital.
Councillor Paul Garner, Falkirk Council’s portfolio holder for environment, said: “This investment in low-carbon travel will contribute to our ambition for a greener, smarter more sustainable Falkirk and will complement our investments in low-carbon transport hubs for other electric vehicles and offer an exciting way to visit Falkirk’s tourist attractions.
“We hope to see these e-bikes become a familiar aspect in our town centres in the near future.”
The project is Bewegen’s first large-scale project in the UK, having implemented more than 20 e-bike schemes across the USA, Canada and Europe.
Bewegen CEO Alain Ayotte said: “Bewegen is proud to be a part of the launch of the UK’s first cross-regional electric bike scheme.
“Data from our systems launched around the world have shown that our e-bikes offer a transportation alternative that is more attractive to a diverse range of users, which contributes to a larger mode shift towards cycling.
“We believe that the Forth Valley Scheme will be very successful, with a strong potential for growth throughout the region. Bewegen is committed to strengthening the Forth Valley region by establishing a local operations team, thereby creating jobs and contributing to the local economy.
“Overall, we are grateful for this opportunity and excited to get this project rolling.”
Mark Craske, NHS Forth Valley travel manager, said: “This is extremely good news for the Forth Valley area and I am particularly pleased to see a route connecting Larbert rail station and Forth Valley Royal Hospital.
“NHS Forth Valley has always advocated cycling as being particularly good for health and wellbeing, as well as an excellent green alternative in its transport policy, and I am sure the e-bike scheme will be very popular.”
The introduction of Pedelec electric bikes across the Forth Valley area will see Forth Environment Link’s bike share fleet increase by over 60 per cent.
The charity already has 160 pedal bicycles to hire through its Nextbike scheme.
Clara Walker, Forth Environment Link executive director, said: “Our ambition is to provide access to more affordable, healthy transport options for people of all ages and abilities and this new all electric bike scheme will help us achieve this.
“Since we introduced bike sharing to Stirling three and a half years ago, the number of journeys made by rental bike in Stirling has tripled.
“Last year alone there were almost 40,000 sustainable journeys made using the scheme cementing its position as a key public transport option in the city. We believe e-bikes will help encourage even more people to get back in the saddle, offering a real alternative to the daily commute with top speeds of 15.5 mph.”