Travelling downhill on one of Edinburgh’s bicycles for hire seems to be rather popular, writes Charles Graham of Just Eat Cycles.
There are some things very particular to Edinburgh: the sound of bagpipes in the city centre, the smell of the breweries in the west end, the tram’s bell, the one o’clock gun – and the tourists jumping in fright when they hear it. And also, as of last year, cyclists whizzing round the roads on a Just Eat Cycles bike.
When a city-wide bike scheme was first proposed, some people scoffed that Edinburgh was too windy and hilly and that when there’s a chill in the air the last thing anyone wants to do is pedal up the Mound.
But that hasn’t proven true at all. Despite the cobbles and the traffic, cycling is more popular than ever. Auld Reekie may not be as flat as Amsterdam or London, but as the city continues to invest in bike infrastructure, we’re on our way to becoming a city known for loving its cycling.
Perhaps it’s in our blood. After all, it was Scottish blacksmith Kirkpatrick Macmillan who is credited with inventing the pedal-driven bicycle in the mid-19th century. And getting on a bike is one of the best ways to see the city’s beautiful architecture, leafy parks and hidden treasures.
Since Just Eat Cycles launched in September, the capital’s network has grown to 52 stations so that people from all across the city can benefit from the scheme. So far, over 18,000 distinct journeys have been made. That tells us that either the hills have been levelled, the wind banished and the city’s thermostat turned up during the winter – or, there is real, sustained demand for the scheme.
Recently, we poured over the user data to find out how the bikes are being used, by who and when. We’ve found that because of how easy the scheme is to use, those who haven’t cycled in years have been encouraged to try the new bikes. After all – £1.50 for an hour-long ride costs less than a single trip bus ticket.
Those who have never owned a bike before are now discovering the freedom, flexibility and cost effectiveness of using a hire scheme as well. Because you can pick up a city bike outside your flat or workplace and drop it off in a different location, you’re not tied to making a return journey with the same bike.
More seasoned cyclists are also adopting the scheme, using the city bikes when taking their own isn’t the most practical transport option.
And for those who commute using their own bike, using the scheme now and again allows them to socialise after work and travel home using a different form of transport, without worrying about leaving their bike locked up elsewhere.
We’ve found that people are using the bikes for the daily commute, to nip to a meeting or catch up with a friend across town. As a day pass costs only £3, some are using them to cross the city when other public transport routes don’t suit.
Many are blowing away the cobwebs and getting fit on the bikes or taking a leisurely cycle down the Water of Leith or Union Canal of a weekend, often in groups of two or three.
Students love picking up the bikes at Bristo Square – it’s one of our most popular sites and you can see why as it’s a great option for students as there’s no commitment and low costs.
Huge amounts of users are dropping bikes off at Canonmills, Victoria Quay and Leith Links: we suspect quite a few of them might be rolling down the hills and not back up again!
Unlike London’s physical-only stations, we have a mix of physical and virtual stations dotted across the city. It’s a hybrid scheme which combines the assurance and control of a station-based scheme, but gives our users the flexibility to lock their city bikes in geo-fenced areas using the free app.
Since the launch, the focus has been to grow Edinburgh’s first cycle hire scheme to meet user demand. Later this year, we will have a total of 80 stations in place, growth which tells us the scheme is growing in popularity.
So what’s next for Edinburgh’s city bikes? We will roll out some new features over the coming months in 2019, including a pause function for all bikers, which allows you to lock your bike temporarily if you need to run into a shop or grab a coffee.
The scheme will also begin working with corporate customers to provide business accounts which give employees access to the bikes. We hope this could transform how people travel to meetings during the day, or encourage more people to consider commuting by bike.
If the hills, wind and cold haven’t put people from all walks of life off during winter, we’re confident that this scheme is on the right track to benefit Edinburgh’s communities.
Not only does it complement Edinburgh’s impressive range of existing public transport options, it adds to its credentials as a green, accessible, modern and truly exciting city.
Charles Graham is general manager of Just Eat Cycles